Ballymun Kickhams dominated the final quarter as they defeated a disappointing Kilmacud Crokes in their Dublin SFC semi-final at Parnell Park on Sunday afternoon.
However, their win was tainted by the injury-time dismissals of both Davey Byrne and Leon Young, with their participation in the final in doubt after receiving straight red cards from referee James King after an unseemly scrap involving a plethora of players from both sides.
Despite that, they’ll derive huge satisfaction and confidence from the manner in which they seized the initiative in the closing stages with a 60th-minute goal from substitute Cathal O’Tighe effectively sealing their passage into the decider.
With both Dean Rock and Paul Mannion opening their personal accounts within the first minute, the tone was set in terms of the enterprising approach of both teams.
Mannion was culpable three minutes later as his low penalty was comfortably repelled by Evan Comerford after the Dublin senior was hauled down inside the square by Darragh Conlon.
Ballymun took heart from that let-off and dominated the remainder of the quarter as Paddy Small created numerous headaches for the Crokes defence, scoring two points to augment further scores by Cameron McCormack and Carl Keeley.
However, the water break stalled their momentum with Crokes resuming on the front foot and an excellent Dan O’Brien goal in the 18th minute helped kick-start their stuttering challenge.
Points ensued from Mannion, Dara Mullin, and Hugh Kenny as the 2018 winners suddenly found themselves with a three-point buffer, a margin that was whittled away by a resurgent Kickhams in the final five minutes of the half.
Almost inevitably, it was Small that was at the heart of this turnaround as his third point from play preceded further points from Rock and McCormack before the former saw his penalty, awarded after a foul on James McCarthy, deflected over the crossbar by Conor Ferris in the Crokes goal.
With Kickhams leading by 0-10 to 1-6 at the break, both teams enjoyed sporadic periods of control with Rock and Mullin keeping their respective scoreboards ticking over but Ballymun’s greater impression from the bench, that was reflected in three points shared by Jason Whelan and Dillon Keating, handed them a decisive advantage as the contest evolved.
O’Tighe’s scruffy goal entering added time after Andrew McCaul was initially denied should have been the end of the drama but some ill-discipline prompted a raft of cautions and a consolation goal from Pat Burke at the death.
D Rock 0-8 (3fs, 1 pen), P Small 0-3, C O’Tighe 1-0, C McCormack, J Whelan 0-2 each, C Keeley, J Small, D Keating 0-1 each.
D Mullin 0-5 (3fs), P Mannion 0-3 (1f), D O’Brien, P Burke 1-0 each, H Kenny 0-2, S Cunningham, S Horan 0-1 each.
E Comerford; D Conlon, E Dolan, P McMahon; C Keeley, J Small, L Young; A Elliott, J McCarthy; F Andrews, D Byrne, B Ashton; P Small, C McCormack, D Rock.
J Whelan for Andrews (37), D Keating for Ashton (37), A McCaul for Elliott (48), C O’Tighe for McCormack (58).
C Ferris; L Flatman, R O’Carroll, C O’Shea; C O’Connor, C O’Sullivan, A McGowan; C Dias, C Casey; S Horan, S Cunningham, D O’Brien; P Mannion, D Mullin, H Kenny.
C Pearson for O’Brien (44), C Kinsella for Horan (45), P Burke for Cunningham (51), M O’Leary for Mullin (61).
James King (Garda)