The mystery of Ballymun Kickhams, Dublin’s great underachievers

No club has done more to make Dublin great yet, closer to home, Ballymun Kickhams have done surprisingly little to help themselves.

The mystery of Ballymun Kickhams, Dublin’s great underachievers

That’s a fact that experienced attacker Kevin Leahy can’t dispute as the Dublin SFC finalists struggle to shake off the tag of serial underachievers.

They are favourites to beat holders St Vincent’s on Monday but players and supporters have long since disregarded the bookmakers’ odds as they’ve continually come up short in the big games.

The Ballymun team that lines out against perennial finalists Vincents will contain five members of this year’s All-Ireland winning county panel.

John Small, an injury doubt admittedly, Dean Rock, James McCarthy and Philly McMahon all started last month’s final win over Mayo, clinching the three-in-a-row for Dublin, while Evan Comerford was the reserve goalkeeper.

Between them, they possess 18 All-Ireland senior medals, four All-Star awards and countless more Leinster and National League medals.

Alan Hubbard, Jason Whelan, Leahy himself and Davy Byrne, four more key Ballymun players, have all played for Dublin too. Yet for all that talent the club has won just one county title since 1985, in 2012.

Leahy is asked if he agrees that the club, which enjoyed a solitary stellar season when reaching the All-Ireland club final in 2013, has underachieved generally. “Absolutely, 100%, I don’t think anybody in the club would disagree,” said Leahy. “We definitely have underachieved. Why? I’d love to put my finger on it. But we definitely have.”

There are, in Ballymun’s defence, mitigating circumstances. When Ballyboden St Enda’s won the All-Ireland club title in early 2016 they partly put it down to not having many county players.

The reality is that having five county men, four of them playing key roles, means they’re lost to the club for months on end and often come back fatigued or injured.

Leahy described McCarthy, for instance, as ‘patched together’ when he returned from Dublin duty after their 2016 All-Ireland win.

“The first club championship game after the Dubs finish up is always the trickiest game for us because there is no real familiarity initially between the players,” said Leahy.

“The Dublin lads don’t know how well we’re going and we don’t know how well they’re going or what kind of shape they are in physically coming off a long season.”

Leahy explained the reality of having so many top county players for a club like Ballymun. “At times we were going out for league games with 16 or 17 lads,” he said. “We probably hurt our intermediates a little bit by taking some of their players when we needed to.”

Small, and younger brother Paddy, a rising star full-forward, are both considered 50-50 for Monday’s decider.

“They are both genuinely struggling,” said Leahy. “The prognosis at the minute wouldn’t be positive.”

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