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Time to test the Ballymun theory

Break from play could be exactly what Kickhams need

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James McCarthy in action for Ballymun Kickhams

James McCarthy in action for Ballymun Kickhams

James McCarthy in action for Ballymun Kickhams

Covid-19 and the law of unintended consequences mean that now we'll get a chance to test out the Ballymun Theory.

The Ballymun Theory is a bit like Schrödinger's cat.

The team that features more All-Ireland medals than any club side in the country is both there and not there at the same time when it comes to the Dublin SFC.

All those Celtic crosses come at a price. And the cost has been to Ballymun's championship-winning potential.

The positioning of the business end of the Dublin SFC immediately after the All-Ireland SFC has had obvious and debilitating effects on the team.

Now? Who knows?

Last year, on September 27 - less than two weeks after the All-Ireland final replay - Ballymun fielded a team containing Philly McMahon (seven All-Ireland medals), John Small (five), James McCarthy (seven), Davy Byrne (two), Paddy Small (three) and Dean Rock (six).

They scored 0-8 against Na Fianna and were beaten by five points.

Wrapped up

Rock, the most accurate place-taker in Gaelic football history, scored just two frees, missed three he'd normally execute without blinking and was completely wrapped up by Jonny Cooper.

McMahon was lucky to stay on the pitch.

Tired. Jaded. Disjointed.

It seemed to mark a low ebb at the end of a decade that saw Ballymun contest an All-Ireland and threaten, albeit briefly, to take over as Dublin football's premier force.

Yet rather than implode, the team stayed together.

Their management of Brendan Hackett and Barney Rock remained on board and the team, with its slowly-regenerating Dublin players, sailed through the league and into a final, wherein they beat a Ballyboden team who by then had already been crowned county champions and had gone unbeaten through 2019.

John Small kicked an injury-time point to seal the win and both he and Paddy lifted the trophy, just a week after burying their father Declan, a former Ballymun chairman, who passed away following a lengthy battle with illness.

There and then, the only thing that could make Ballymun seem better prospects for the 2020 championship was if somehow, due to some unforeseen global event, its scheduling got turned on its head.

And here we are.

It's not unusual for Ballymun to be favourites for the Dublin SFC but now, the greatest impediments to them reaching true form have been removed: fatigue and lack of collective preparation.

There's no such thing as a sure thing in the Dublin SFC.

Two years ago, Kilmacud won it with such vigour, such youthful attacking energy, that they seemed to be heralding the dawn of a new era.

Whether it was the lingering disappointment of their subsequent loss to Mullinalaghta in the Leinster final or something else, they crashed out in the semi-finals last year without ever looking likely winners.

Again, like Ballymun, injuries and/or a lack of exposure to players as influential as Cian O'Sullivan and Paul Mannion don't help and shouldn't be such a factor this year.

Champions Ballyboden St Enda's were easily the best team in the competition in 2019. That much was obvious when they obliterated St Jude's in the second half of their county semi-final.

Down by six against a team that had conceded an average of just under nine points a game in their previous five games - and who had constricted St Vincent's into scoring just 0-4 in the quarter-final - 'Boden stormed the second half and won by three.

They minded Michael Darragh Macauley intelligently all through the competition but the energy of both Basquels, Robbie McDaid and Shane Clayton were more than enough to see them safely through Leinster too.

Experience

They have the footballers, the athleticism and the experience to win another one.

And what of Vincent's? They were, by their own illustrious standards, awful last year in that game against Jude's.

The return of Brian Mullins as manager has lifted the mood around the club, but it's not quite certain where the fresh artillery will come from.

Much is expected of Seán Lowry but, as ever, Vincent's chances rest with their perennial leaders, their proven winners.

Diarmuid Connolly (left) has come close to winning championship games on his own for Vincent's over the last ten years but there's no guarantee of that sort of form this year, given his lack of competitive action over the recent past.

Still, with Connolly, you wouldn't rule it out. What of the rest?

Jude's have made the semi-final in seven of the last ten Dublin championships, but have lacked the firepower to take the next, admittedly steep, step.

The intriguing subplot to 'Boden's first title defence in Páirc Uí Mhurchú is the expected presence of erstwhile Dublin star Jack McCaffrey.

If he scorches the earth for Clontarf over the coming weeks, what price Dessie Farrell makes contact between now and the start of the GAA's winter games?

Is there a surprise contender among the chasing bunch, just as Thomas Davis defied all expectation to make last year's final?

Raheny surely have the best midfield pairing of any club team in Ireland in Brian Fenton and Brian Howard, but they've struggled to get out of some tasty groups in recent years.

Clearly, they haven't been kind to the gods of draw, having been stuck in Group 4 along with Castleknock, Crokes and St Oliver Plunkett's/ER.

That these games are confined to just a handful of spectators is a crying shame, given the level of entertainment and standard of football the competition has habitually generated over the past decade.

By the time the live RTÉ cameras come to Parnell Park to screen two of the third round games, we may have something resembling crowds at those do-or-die stages.

Some of the biggest clubs will be out by then. And the contenders for the first Dublin SFC of a new decade will have made themselves fully known.