| 4.4°C Dublin

Byrne: Confidence can give Ballymun final say in Croker

DEREK BYRNE has experienced the climate change. He has been playing senior football in Dublin for many years now, writes Niall Scully.

"It's a different game completely," he muses. "It has evolved dramatically. The players today are so young.

"The majority are in their early to mid-20s. Before, it was the late 20s to early 30s. It's all about pace and fitness now."

Derek's days began under Clondalkin's Round Tower. "That's where I learned all my football. We had wonderful times there. I can still remember us all going to Belmullet in deepest Mayo with the great Bernard Sheeran. That was always a magical trip, a real highlight for us young fellas.

"Tower's is where I got my grounding and there were some fabulous influences there like Tom Corrigan."

Derek then moved to Ballyboden St Enda's, who were managed by Paul Bealin, before returning to Tower's.

"Paul Curran was managing there. That's where I got to know him, so when I was at Ballymun and they were looking for a manager I let Paul know and the wheels were put in motion."

This is Derek's sixth season at Kickhams. The work ethic has impressed him. "There's 29 lads training for a year and a half now. There's huge belief in the squad.

"It's a fabulous panel, and we have some exceptional characters like Paddy Christie, Ian Robertson and Brian McCullagh.

"A lot of the players have had success at underage level. We won the league under Declan Sheehan.

"We were knocking on the door of the championship. We lost semi-finals. The 2011 defeat to St Brigid's in the semi-final after extra-time was a heartbreak. It spurred us on.


"When I first came here I knew there was a championship in this squad. I didn't think it would take as long to win it!

"But winning Dublin gave us so much confidence. And things have just snowballed from there."

When Kilmacud won the All-Ireland in 1995, it was hail-stoning in Croke Park. Hopefully the weather will be kinder on Sunday.

"It will be some spectacle, with both club colours being red and green.

"It's lovely to see all the flags and bunting around Ballymun and the kids wearing the jerseys. Every community and parish wants to see their club in Croke Park on St Patrick's Day," concludes Derek.