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Dublin: 8°C Sunday 25 October 2020

Ballymun boss adds voice to calls for club All-Ireland to run off in January and February

As it stands there will be no repeat of Ballymun Kickhams’ trip to the All-Ireland final in 2013.

Ballymun Kickhams’ celebrate with the trophy.
Ballymun Kickhams’ celebrate with the trophy.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

PERHAPS IT WAS inevitable, but the groundswell of support is growing for the GAA to stage the provincial and All-Ireland club championships in the early part of 2021.

Over the weekend county title winning bosses Brendan Hackett and Tim Crowe, of Ballymun Kickhams and Sixmilebridge respectively, added their voices to the argument.

Croke Park have already stated that a condensed version of the inter-county season will take place in 2021, with the National Leagues unlikely to start before March or even April. That would leave a window in the early months of the year to complete a belated All-Ireland series in both codes.

“I heard something on the radio today coming in that a few clubs are starting to make noise about maybe January or February you could run it off fairly quickly,” said Hackett after yesterday’s 14-point victory over Ballyboden St Enda’s.

“In the early part of the championship there was a game every 10 days. But then people are saying that players need a break too so, what do you do? But yeah, it would be lovely to play.

“The way we’re playing now I’d love to test ourselves out against the clubs from other counties and provinces if we got that far.”

brendan-hackett Ballymun Kickhams manager Brendan Hackett. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The nature of the split season meant many club sides brimming with inter-county stars have emerged with titles nationwide. None have benefited more than Ballymun, who backboned Dublin’s historic five-in-a-row achievements.

There has been a long-held theory in the capital that if Ballymun ever had a sustained run with their county men embedded in the panel, there wasn’t a side in Dublin that could stop them. The manner by which they dissected the Leinster champions yesterday proved that notion to be correct.

They were dumped out by Na Fianna in last year’s group stage, a side they shrugged off in the quarter-final this year. The difference? An entire summer with exclusive access to Dean Rock, James McCarthy, the Small brothers, Evan Comerford and Philly McMahon.

They could work on tactics, kick-out routines, build a spirit in the group and help bring the younger players on.

And, more importantly, having those players fresh rather than hobbling into club action after an intense nine month-long county campaign.

“The county have got the best out of those players. Declan Small (the late father of John and Paddy who was a longtime chairman of the club) said to me when I met him the first day, ‘Those guys that you see in July and August are going to be spent by the time they get back to you in September.’

“And they were very prophetic words. This year they’ve been part of the club, they’ve been part of the club for the last number of months and we’ve built up a great club spirit.

“It’s a line I said on the TV, probably less science and a bit more fun. No long meetings, no long video analysis, we just played football and we had great fun all summer.”

On the prospects of a split season being retained in the future, Hackett said: “Look I’ve been both sides. I’ve been a county manager, I’ve been a club manager and I see certain advantages for county managers.

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“You get to see a championship. The fellas who are knocked out early on, you’re bringing them in. And the fellas who are in the latter stages, Dessie Farrell has had a great view of who’s in form at the moment.

“I mean, I know who I’d be taking into a county panel after watching the last number of weeks. Some of the younger players have really stood up.”

darragh-conlon-and-alan-george-celebrate-at-the-final-whistle Darragh Conlon and Alan George celebrate at the final whistle. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Hackett gave a wry laugh when asked if some of Ballymun’s younger cohort could get the call-up to the county set-up.

“Oh yeah, of course. I don’t want to give him anymore! But yeah, there were some. I thought Darragh Conlon was superb today and Leon Young, Carl Keating. Those three are future players. Cameron McCormack, Aaron Elliott – all fine players.”

And he feels Paddy Small is set for a big campaign in blue.

“I’m really hoping for Paddy, he’s been knocking on the door and I think this championship he’s really showed what he can do. Everybody knows what Dean (Rock) can do but Paddy was electric for the whole summer.”

On a day when Corofin also lost their county crown, Ballyboden boss Anthony Rainbow had no complaints over the result.

“Look, it’s always hard to get to a final. You need to put in the work to get there, and we put in an awful lot of work over the last couple of weeks and months. And today just wasn’t our day. We just didn’t perform. Ballymun were a far superior side than we were today and we’ve no complaints.

“We had a couple of guys going in that probably hadn’t played football in two to three weeks. They were fit going into the game, and the quality of player that they are, we decided that we’d start with them. It’s the way football is. We just didn’t play well today and that was it. We’ve no complaints about it.

He added: “To go back to back in any county is hard – unless you’re a Sarsfields or a Moorefield or a Corofin! But Dublin is extremely hard to go back to back. It’s hard enough to win it, it’s hard enough to get to a final, and we’ve put a huge amount of work in over the last three years since I’ve come in here. The fact that we’ve been in the last two finals in a row is a credit to the players.”

The Kildare legend said he would like to remain in charge for a fourth campaign.

“I definitely do. Yeah, I hope so. Look, I’ve to sit down with the chairman and see what direction they want to go in, but I’m hoping to stay on with the group for another year or so.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / reports from Parnell Park

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