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Dublin: 4°C Thursday 13 May 2021
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Ballymun eyeing golden opportunity as 'big four' remain in Dublin

‘At half-time that’s what we said: ‘It’s either go home this evening or find a way around this.”

Ballymun Kickhams' Dean Rock scores a free.
Ballymun Kickhams' Dean Rock scores a free.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

BALYMUN KICKHAMS FOUND themselves in a precarious position at half-time yesterday’s quarter-final, trailing by five points to the side that dumped them out of the 2019 championship.

Na Fianna’s group stage victory last September, with Dessie Farrell at the helm, arrived just 13 days after the All-Ireland final replay.

This time around, Ballymun had the guts of three months of exclusive access to their county stars.

James McCarthy said a couple of weeks ago he believed it was the first time since 2013 they had trained for such a long spell as a group without any inter-county interference.

When Kickhams boss Brendan Hackett got his players in a huddle before they returned to the field for the second period, he reminded them “it was do-or-die” territory.

“There’s no safety net, there’s no excuses. At half-time that’s what we said: ‘It’s either go home this evening or find a way around this.’

“And look, players find ways around situations. Sometimes I think you can overthink the changes, they found a way. They found a solution and I suppose it was largely through our tempo, we played at a much higher tempo in the second-half. They probably didn’t have an answer for it really.”

Dublin forward Paddy Small left the fray just three minutes into the second-half with a hamstring problem, adding to their task.

But find a way around it they did.

As he has done so often for Dublin in the past, it was McCarthy who surged forward within 30 seconds of the restart to take a ball on the run and clip it between the posts despite the oncoming traffic.

“I think you have to be able to inject something into a game,” said Hackett. “Look at Judes yesterday, it was nip and tuck and they injected something in just after half-time and got that cushion to get ahead.

“We needed to inject something and that’s when leaders stand up.”

The leaders included John Small, a driving force from centre-back, and Dean Rock, scorer of eight points.

“Look, Na Fianna were in the driving seat. It’s probably the first tough game we’ve been in. If we’re honest, we won the first three games in the group relatively easy so that has done us the world of good.

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“That was a test of character in the second-half to come back and do what we did.”

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

But it was their defensive performance in the second-half, where they restricted Na Fianna to 1-3 that particularly pleased Hackett.

“We had targets in the game. They had nearly got all their scores in the first-half and you’re setting a challenge to the team and we said, ‘Okay, their quota is gone now so in the second-half you have to keep them to three scores’.

“I thought the defensive display in the second-half was fantastic. They literally chewed them up.”

2018 champions Kilmacud Crokes easily saw-off St Vincent’s at the weekend and will provide a stern test of Ballymun’s credentials in the semi-final.

Hackett believes the four best sides are left in the competition, with Ballyboden St Enda’s meeting St Jude’s in the other semi-final.

“That’s the big four that are all there. It doesn’t matter who you get, they’re all going to be tough from here on in.

“The bookies are never too far wrong, and they would have had those four probably as the four. They’re shrewd judges, they get the best advice … so I think most people would have backed those four to be there.”

On Paddy Small’s injury, Hackett said: “Don’t know yet, it looked like a pull, or it could have been just a cramp. We’ll get a look at it. It’s too early to tell.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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