Ballymun Saunter to Victory over Croke’s

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Ballymun Kickham’s 2-15 – 1-10 Kilmacud Croke’s

Ballymun Kickham’s have sauntered into the Dublin Senior Football Championship final after seeing off Kilmacud Croke’s in a thoroughly one-sided affair.

It was all over bar the shouting when veteran Croke’s full back, Ross O’Carroll was red carded, for a rash, soccer style sliding tackle, which he mistimed terribly, leaving Dave Feeney little choice but to card him.

In truth, the writing was on the wall even before the red card as Croke’s trailed by 0-7 to 0-2 at the time of the sending off, twenty minutes in.

Mark Vaughan’s cutting balls opened had up the Ballymun defence on three occasions in the opening twenty minutes, but even then, the final product was off the mark when goal chances came about.

This element aside, it was running more or less as our preview had suggested, with Croke’s thoroughly struggling to pick the lock in the Ballymun zonal defence.

Time and again they went short on kick-outs and time and again the squandered possession and were overturned, or simply shot in overly ambitious circumstances. They looked far more likely to concede points, on the turnover, off these kick-outs than to create their own score.

Interestingly, also as speculated in our preview, the once they went long in this opening twenty minutes and won primary possession, they created a man-on-man attack which led to a Paul Mannion wide which you’d expect he’d have converted maybe seventy percent of the time.

You were left to wonder why Croke’s had gone with a fielding midfielder when they had so little intention of going long, and Mun’s kick-outs were always going to be about runners, with Shane Cunningham and Kevin Dyas on the bench.

With John Small keeping tabs on Mannion, he never looked like creating the wonder-goal he had done in each of Crokes’ last four seriously competitive championship matches.

Meanwhile, for Ballymun, it was business as usual. Near perfect kick-out deliveries from Evan Comerford, long over the top, and short where the long option wasn’t on, it was beginning to look like death by a thousand cuts, even before O’Sullivan was carded.

Their methodical “pick and poke” play was unlocking the Crokes’ defence with the typical penetration coming at the end of so many moves from Dean Rock, Jason Whelan, James McCarthy and Paddy Small.

Indeed it was one such move, which as good as ended the game, where the evening’s stand-out performer, Whelan, made a typical run, cutting through the Crokes’s defence before smashing home.

It was 1-8 to 0-3 by half time.

Crokes’ would go for broke in the second half, pushing Mannion to midfield, coming short on kick-outs and on general play to dictate affairs, trying what appeared to be their only hope at this point, killer long balls into the forward line. The first three would end in Ballymun hands, however.

Croke’s probably had little choice but to push high in the second half and prevent Ballymun from playing keep-ball, and their efforts were noble, and sometimes effective, but it inevitably left this most athletic and efficient of ball carrying sides to create overlaps down the central channel. This would lead to three exhibition scores on the trot off the back of defence-splitting passes by James Burke, Philly McMahon and Whelan.

Interestingly, the arrival of Cunningham on the field coincided with Mun failing to win a couple of long kick-outs for the first time in the game. His pace was much needed, albeit that it was past the point of recovery.

A Mark Vaughan goal brought some respectability to the score-line, but only for James Burke to be fouled for a penalty to increase Mun’s lead, at the far end.

Mun would keep Croke’s at arm’s length for the remainder, running out 2-15 to 1-10 winners.

Worryingly, Paddy Small whose runs from full forward were once again superb, ended the game sitting over the end-line with what looked like a hamstring injury.

It was the only potential glitch on what was otherwise business as usual for Ballymun, as they go through to the final for the first time in four campaigns.

*full analysis to follow*

By Stephen O’Meara