“This is what it was.”
The Dr Crokes manager couldn’t have put it better about a team performance that couldn’t have been much worse.
This was a frighteningly bad display by a team that had coasted its way through Munster, lighting up several wintry Sunday afternoons with champagne football.
Yet with spring in the air, they came up well short in front of a poor 2,278 crowd in Semple Stadium.
O’Leary acknowledged Ballymun deserved their win but there were elements of the game that went unfairly against Dr Crokes, namely Marty Duffy’s refereeing.
Five minutes after picking up a yellow card, the influential Philly McMahon, who operated with aplomb in a new midfield role, hauled down Daithí Casey as he was about to shoot towards goal.
Yet Duffy elected not to punish him. To add insult to injury, Chris Brady’s low shot to Sean Currie’s right was saved by the Ballymun goalkeeper.
The decision not to punish McMahon aggrieved O’Leary. “And yellow card afterwards. Did he duck out the field? He must have. The referee didn’t see him.
“No fella wants to see a fella sent off but ref it properly anyway. If you’re going to ref it ref it clear. He saw it, I didn’t see it.”
O’Leary also grumbled about Duffy’s officiating in the main. “Look, the GAA have to wake up a small bit. They’re making rules but Marty, this fella today, he didn’t come to play with the rules.
“One (Ballymun) fella there was tying his lace — I thought that rule was gone. For tying your lace you get on with the game.
“Look, Ballymun were the better team on the day and we can’t complain but the GAA would want to have a look at themselves.”
What will hurt Dr Crokes most is Ballymun didn’t have to play out of their skins to win this game. Ted Furman may have been their goal-scorer but as manager Paul Curran said afterwards he didn’t contribute much else after.
Furman only kicked the one wide but the Dublin and Leinster champions amassed 11 over the 60-plus minutes compared to Dr Crokes’ five.
Ballymun were never made to pay for their erratic shooting although much of that was down to the work-rate of their defence.
Alan Hubbard gave a performance that will surely have made Jim Gavin sit up and take notice while James Burke and Sean George did fine detailing jobs on Kieran O’Leary and Colm Cooper respectively.
For Cooper, who we judge by a higher standard, it was an All-Ireland semi-final to forget. His dummy solo and pass to set up Chris Brady for a first-half score was a rare moment of inspiration for a player who was hounded by the Ballymun defence.
By the closing stages, the movement of the Crokes inside forward line, with Cooper having moved out, was non-existent.
Eoin Brosnan, whose switch to midfield for the Killarney club made it a two-point game with 19 minutes to go after a rallying third quarter, was out of gas by the end.
Furman’s goal was what separated the teams at the break, 1-4 to 0-4, although Crokes were fortunate to be so close with Ballymun have racked up seven wides.
But for a brilliant instinctive save from David Moloney in the 20th minute when Dean Rock squared a hand-pass to Kevin Leahy for a close range palm, they could have been further behind.
George, though, had to stretch seconds later to break up an O’Leary pass intended for Cooper.
Ballymun didn’t just work harder — they were cleverer too. After a variety of deliberate lateral passes by his team-mates, Cooper was forced to foul the ball having been swamped by opposing defenders in the 27th minute.
A short time later, Ballymun found themselves confronted by a similarly packed defence only for Furman to sweep a crossfield kick-pass to Davey Byrne who duly knocked it over.
John Payne denied McMahon Ballymun’s third goal chance five minutes into the second half and when Crokes’ one opportunity for a three-point score came Sean Currie was equal to Brady’s penalty.
Four unanswered Crokes scores in seven minutes, two from Casey and Cooper and Johnny Buckley notching one each, brought them back into the affair but Ballymun’s threat was emphasised by Moloney’s block on Leahy in the 52nd minute.
Two Rock points widened the gap to four and all Crokes could return fire with was a Fionn Fitzgerald point.
Manager O’Leary was beaten was unbowed. “Where are we going to go from here? We’re going to rally and we’re going to be back here again next year. We’re going nowhere. I’m a bad loser, I don’t go nowhere but we will be back. How long did it take them to win a county championship? It took them three or four years before they beat South Kerry. This is going to be the same thing. As long as these fellas keep knuckling down to it and give a bit extra. But these (Ballymun) lads are flying fit. Any chance that we can test them!”
Scorers for Ballymun Kickhams: D Rock 0-5 (3 frees); T Furman 1-1; Davy Byrne, P McMahon, J Whelan, Derek Byrne 0-1 each.
Scorers for Dr Crokes:, D Casey 0-3 (1f); C Cooper 0-2; J Doolan, C Brady, J Buckley, F Fitzgerald 0-1 each.
BALLYMUN KICKHAMS: S Currie; E Dolan, S George, E Dolan; A Hubbard, K Connolly, J Burke; P McMahon, J McCarthy; Davy Byrne, K Leahy, J Whelan; C Weir, D Rock, T Furman.
Subs: E Reilly for Weir (46); Derek Byrne for Leahy (inj), S Forde for Connolly (both 55).
DR CROKES: D Moloney; J Payne, M Moloney, F Fitzgerald; L Quinn, E Brosnan, S Myers; A O’Donovan, J Buckley; K O’Leary, D Casey, B Looney; C Brady, C Cooper, J Doolan.
Subs: S Doolan for O’Donovan (inj 19); D O’Leary for Myers (43); K Ward for Quinn (45); G O’Shea for Brady (55).
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo).