Ballymun Kickhams captain James McCarthy has pinpointed last December's Dublin AFL1 final success as a key turning point on the road to success that culminated in last Sunday’s Dublin SFC1 glory.
Like in last weekend’s top-flight county final Kickhams defeated Ballyboden last winter to claim league honours with a gutsy display - John Small kicking a late winning score.
“We limped out of the championship again last year, which was embarrassing the way we went out against Na Fianna,” said James.
“We didn’t have much training for that league game (final versus Ballyboden). It was the time John and Paddy Small’s dad (Declan) passed away. We just thought it’s time to get a bit of heart back in the club, so we said let’s give this a right crack.
“It was a dirty December night and we won a tight game. It meant a lot and brought a bit of heart back into the club and the team again – everyone back, unified front, and I think that made a big difference to us, I absolutely do. We went on from there,” added the Dublin defender.
The seven-time All-Ireland SFC winner was delighted in the manner in which his side reclaimed the Clerys Cup after an absence of eight years – highlighting their second half resurgence against Na Fianna as very important.
“We’ve beaten all the big teams this year; it’s a great championship to win. We’ve beaten Ballyboden, Crokes, Na Fianna, Thomas Davis. I don’t think anyone can argue with us being the best team this year.”
The Mun trailed Na Fianna by five points at half-time (0-8 to 1-10) in their quarter-final back at the end of August but kicked six points on the spin on the restart.
Led by the likes of James McCarthy, John Small and Cameron McCormack Kickhams took control of the game with McCarthy’s point in the opening minute of the second-half a signal of intent.
Dean Rock, who tallied 0-8 (0-5f) overall, converted three frees to cut the gap to a point before a stylish point by Jason Whelan brought the sides level following hard graft by Carl Keeley and Fiach Andrews.
An Andrew McCaul mark edged Ballymun in front before an Aaron Byrne free had the sides level once again, 0-14 to 1-11.
But there was no stopping Kickhams with sub Andrew McCaul getting an important goal in their 1-18 to 2-13 victory.
“In other years we might have gone into our shells and not come back in those games. That gave us great confidence, the way we roared back from big deficits and turned it around. You can’t buy that in a team,” added James.
“The big thing for us all week was we were saying we’re not going to sit back.
“We played the final a few years ago (2017) and it was a sickening feeling afterwards; we didn’t even have a go at the game.
“We lost by a goal to Vincent’s; we just said, as a team, no way that could happen and we just played front-foot football all over the place, squeezing, putting bodies on the line.”
BALLYMUN KICKHAMS: Path to Dublin SFC1 title
Group 1: First (three wins)
Group results: Ballymun Kickhams 3-18 Skerries Harps 0-12; Round Towers Lusk 1-10 Ballymun Kickhams 3-26; Ballymun Kickhams 3-15 Thomas Davis 0-8
Quarter-final result: Ballymun Kickhams 1-18 Na Fianna 2-13
Semi-final result: Ballymun Kickhams 1-18 Kilmacud Crokes 2-12
Final result: Ballymun Kickhams 1-19 Ballyboden St Enda’s 0-8
Scored (six games): 12-114 (150)
Average scored per game: 25 points
Conceded: 5-63 (78)
Average conceded per game: 13 points
Number of Dublin SFC titles: 4 (1982, 1985, 2012, 2020)
Last time Dublin SFC holders: 2020