It was a day for the underdogs, as Ballymun Kickhams replicated what St. Brigids of Roscommon had achieved in the earlier semi-final, by progressing to the All-Ireland Club SFC Final.
The Dublin and Leinster Champions qualified for the final for the first time in their history, thanks to excellent performances from Philly McMahon and Dean Rock. In truth, it was a terrific team performance and they fully deserved their win.
Although Ballmun Kickhams were the much more impressive side in the first half, it was Dr. Crokes that opened the scoring. Jamie Doolin picked up the ball thirty yards out and kicked it brilliantly over the bar. Ted Furman and Dean Rock responded for the Leinster champions and they were 0-2 to 0-1 in front after eight minutes. Rock was causing the Crokes defence all sorts of trouble and they were struggling to find it hard to deal with his physicality.
Ballymun started the better of the sides but couldn’t turn their domination into scores. They were particularly strong around midfield and Dr. Croke’s Johnny Buckley was non-existent. The number of wides was worrying for Ballymun but their effort could not be faulted. In contrast, Crokes were very sluggish and never really threatened the Ballymun goal.
In Colm Cooper, Dr. Crokes have a player capable of winning any match and he showed some great skill to lose two defenders before laying the ball off to Chris Brady for the easy point. Ballymun Kickhams had another wide in the 14th minute when Dean Rock punched a hopeful ball wide of the mark under pressure from the Crokes defence. That made it six wides altogether, in comparison to just one from Crokes. For all Ballymun’s dominance, Dr. Crokes were somehow level after a quarter of the game.
In the 15th minute, Ballymun’s persistence paid off as Ted Furman scored a goal to remember. Philly McMahon played a great ball into Furman and he danced his way past his marker before smashing the ball into the back of the net, 1-02 to 0-02.
Crokes decided to take off Ambrose O’ Donovan and replaced him with Shane Doolan in the hope that they could salvage something from midfield. Dean Rock continued to cause problems for the Crokes defence and played an excellent ball across the goal which Kevin Leahy fisted straight at the keeper. It was a huge chance for the Leinster champions.
Dean Rock and Dr. Croke’s Daithí Casey exchanged points, but a great team score in the 28th minute made it a four-point lead for the men from Dublin. Colm Cooper reduced the arrears in first-half injury time to make it 1-4 to 0-4 at the half. Somehow, despite Ballymun’s dominance, the difference between the teams was just one score going in at the half.
Ballymun started the second half brightly with Dean Rock and Jason Whelan extending their lead to five points, 1-06 to 0-04. In the 37th minute, Crokes were handed a lifeline. Daithí Casey found himself in space and just as the proverbial trigger was being released, he was fouled and the referee awarded a penalty. Surprisingly, the penalty duties were handed to Chris Brady and not Colm Cooper, and his effort was brilliantly saved by Séan Currie in the Ballymun goal.
Philly McMahon continued to control the midfield and made it 1-07 to 0-4 with a well-taken point. However, Dr. Crokes were not going to give up too easily and Colm Cooper scored an excellent left-footed point to start a Crokes run of four points without reply. Johnny Buckley looked like finally getting the upper hand in midfield and his point in the 51st minute made it 1-07 to 0-08.
Dean Rock settled the Ballymun ship soon after with two points, making it five for the day. Fionn Fitzgerald replied for Dr. Crokes but Derek Byrne put the result beyond doubt with an injury-time point to make it 1-10 to 0-09 to Ballymun Kickhams.
Paul Curran’s charges now face St. Brigids of Roscommon in the All-Ireland Club SFC Final on March 17th, in what will no doubt be billed as the ‘Underdogs Final’.