Sarsfields facing biggest test to-date

BOTH St Pat’s of Louth and Westmeath’s Mullingar Shamrocks have been brushed aside. Now it’s the turn of Sarsfields and Ballymum Kickhams to meet. The winner will advance to the Leinster Club Championship final, the losers will retire for the rest of the year. It’s Dublin versus Kildare this Sunday in St Conleth’s Park and no doubt there’s a great tussle in store, writes Ruth Chambers.

BOTH St Pat’s of Louth and Westmeath’s Mullingar Shamrocks have been brushed aside. Now it’s the turn of Sarsfields and Ballymum Kickhams to meet. The winner will advance to the Leinster Club Championship final, the losers will retire for the rest of the year. It’s Dublin versus Kildare this Sunday in St Conleth’s Park and no doubt there’s a great tussle in store, writes Ruth Chambers.

The last time Ballymum Kickhams won a Dublin Senior Football Championship title Barry McGuigan was the WBA world featherweight champion and the Irish rugby team claimed the Triple Crown. The year was 1985 and they had just claimed the title for only the second time in their history. Little did they know they’d have to wait 27 years to taste glory again. When they beat Kilmacud Croke in the final last month one would have been forgiven for thinking that they’d be content with just that but apparently not and they proved that against Mullingar Shamrocks in the quarter final of the provincial competition recently.

Mullingar Shamrocks, who beat All Ireland finalists Garrycastle in the Westmeath decider after a replay, were inevitably expecting a tough challenge from Ballymum but perhaps not as tough as they got.

Indeed it wasn’t really a challenge at all. Kickhams cantered to a twelve point victory in Cusack Park as the rest of the province sat up and took notice. Prior to that all the talk was of favourites Portlaoise, and it still is to some extent, but Ballymum have been firmly added to the mix.

The same day in Newbridge, Sarsfields took to the field against St Patrick’s of Louth, the team that got the better of Offaly kingpins Rhode in the opening round. The Kildare men didn’t have things as easy but got what they needed.

A blistering start carried John Crofton’s Sash to a three point victory but in truth the Newbridge side should have prevailed by a bigger margin. A late goal for the Louth men put a gloss on the final scoreline but nonetheless Sarsfields will have to be in much better form to compete with the Dublin champions this Sunday.

With just ten minutes on the clock Sarsfields had opened up a five point advantage, however St Pat’ did recover and gave themselves a life line when they hit 1-1 without reply before the interlude.

After the turnaround though the Kildare team assumed control but they failed to kill off their 14 man opponents, who fought until the bitter end.

At the same time in the midlands Paul Curran’s Ballymum were doing a demolition job on Mullingar Shamrocks. A mis-match if ever there was one. Whether or not such a walk in the park will do the Dublin champs any good ahead of their trip to Newbridge remains to be seen but they did what they had to do in Cusack Park and did so with aplomb.

With just eleven minutes played Kickhams grabbed their first goal, courtesy of Davy Byrne, and it was a sign of things to come thereafter. By that stage the Dubliners led 1-4 to 0-0 and come the long whistle that advantage was stretched to twelve points. It was a walk in the proverbial park for Paul Curran’s charges.

Sarsfields forwards fired on all cylinders down the road in Newbridge and so too did the Kickham’s attackers in Cusack Park. Dean Rock, son of former Celbridge boss Barney Rock, scored eight points, six from frees but it was Ted Furman who stood head and shoulders above the rest.

The talented corner-forward chipped in with a goal and two points.

“They have been running up big scores against very strong opposition and we’ll have to be on our guard. Against St Patrick’s we conceded 2-6 and 2-2 of that came deep in to injury time at the end of each half. I was disappointed with that and we were fortunate we weren’t made pay. If we do the same against Ballymum we will be made pay,” said Sash boss John Crofton.

Winning with such ease at the quarter final stage has certainly made people sit up and take notice of Ballymun Kickhams, who incidentally visited St. Conlelth’s Park on Saturday last, although they did not train there, just familiarised themselves with the surroundings.

Not many expected them to beat Kilmacud Crokes in the Dublin decider but teams from the capital historically do well in the Leinster Club Championship and it seems Kickhams are set to continue that tradition.

Crofton knows that his team have a big step up to make on Sunday and he will need much more from them than they gave against St Patrick’s.

“There’s no doubt this is a bigger challenge. Invariably whoever comes out of Dublin are going to be very, very strong,” Crofton told the Leinster Leader this week.

The Kildare champions are injury free for the semi final despite a tough, physical encounter against the Louth men and are now looking forward to another home game with a place in the decider at stake. Crofton warns, however, that if his side don’t fire on all cylinders, they could very well suffer the same fate as Mullingar Shamrocks did.

“It is good to have it in Newbridge of course, we’re a Newbridge team but it didn’t mean too much for Mullingar Shamrocks the last day. If we don’t match them on the field the venue doesn’t matter,” insisted Crofton.