BALLYMUN KICKHAMS have waited 27 years to get down and dirty in the winter trenches of Leinster club football. After yesterday's quarter-final mismatch in Mullingar, they must wonder what all the fuss is about.
The newly crowned Dublin champs have scarcely had it so easy, certainly not in the capital cauldron, and it's a moot point how this opening cakewalk will steel them for another road trip to Newbridge on Sunday week, when they face Sarsfields of Kildare.
From the 11th minute, when Davy Byrne waltzed through an exposed Mullingar Shamrocks defence to rifle home their opening goal, it was a matter of not who but by how much.
Already, the 'Mun led by 1-4 to 0-0. By the full-time whistle, that seven-point margin had grown to a 12-point chasm -- 2-13 to 0-7. Winning boss Paul Curran had emptied his bench, not through necessity, of course, with man of the match Ted Furman among those called ashore.
Curran's counterpart, Ray Smyth, had done likewise for entirely different reasons, and two of his subs (Anthony Clinton and Darragh Daly) each grabbed a point from play ... an otherwise forgettable stat accorded significance by the fact that not one of their 15 starting colleagues had achieved this singular feat.
Smyth has a penchant for headline-grabbing hilarity in his post-match quotes, but there wasn't much to be laughing about here. Instead the Shamrocks boss was brutally honest, conceding that he sensed beforehand that his young squad were not fully focused after capturing the club's first Westmeath title in 12 years.
Ballymun could have proffered a similar excuse; instead they started like an express train, suggesting their own ambition hasn't been sated by that first county title since 1985.
"In the end the scoreline says that (it was easy), but we knew it was going to be tough enough," Curran maintained afterwards. "We just played well -- in fairness, we hit the ground running. We played with a little bit of a breeze in the first half and we got a great start, four points and then a great goal and that gave us the bit of breathing space you need in these matches."
Barely 70 seconds had elapsed when Furman offered an early signal of intent, his goal attempt fizzing over via the crossbar. By the time he departed, the buzzing corner-forward had scored 1-2 from play, played in Dean Rock for another point and been fouled for three converted frees, resulting in yellow cards for a brace of hassled corner-backs.
"He's a strong bugger!" said Curran of Furman, an All-Ireland U21 winner two years ago.
"He's got himself into a good position fitness-wise this year, and I think everybody in the county knows how talented he is.
"He's playing senior football since he was 16, but we know that that's in him. We're seeing it more this year; we didn't really see it last year. He's very fit and playing great stuff."
Maybe Shamrocks were lulled into thinking Ballymun were a one-man forward line, given all the pre-match talk about another of Jim Gavin's U21 graduates from 2010, Dean Rock. "I thought there was a little bit of misguided talk during the week from Mullingar, a lot of talk coming from one or two of their players about Dean Rock and James McCarthy," Curran ventured. "But we've a lot more to us than just the two lads."
Rock certainly played his part, booming over some impressive early frees from distance and finishing with 0-8, two from play. But the 'Mun can strike from several angles and so it transpired in the 11th minute, when the hard-working Jason Whelan caught a Mullingar kickout on the left wing and released Byrne, ghosting through unimpeded from his midfield berth.
His low finish brooked no argument and, in truth, that goal killed off any pretence of a sustained home challenge.
A mini-revival of sorts saw Mullingar trail by 1-7 to 0-3 at the midpoint but, within three minutes of the restart, Ballymun's more direct approach was encapsulated by Furman's soaring collection of a Whelan delivery, followed by an emphatic finish. From there they could coast to the finish. "I would be very surprised if they don't win the Leinster champion-ship, very surprised," Smyth reflected. "I saw them playing in the Dublin championship and I didn't think they were as good. I thought we had a great chance, and maybe if the real Shamrocks team turned up today we would have had a chance ... look it, I hope they win the Leinster championship."
Stranger things have happened.