Leinster club championship (Mullingar Shamrocks v Ballymun Kickhams, Cusack Park, Sunday 2.30pm )
Dublin champions Ballymun Kickhams will be deserving favourites when they take the field against newly crowned Westmeath champions Mullingar Shamrocks this Sunday. Yet Ray Smyth’s side have every reason to be confident of causing an upset on home soil.
Now that they have finally got their hands on the Flanagan Cup the shackles are off and they can take to the field without the pressure which must have weighed heavily on them in the county decider. That alone should leave them open to improvement.
Garrycastle’s heroics last year in making it all the way to the All-Ireland final have lifted the stock of club football in the county and should be a source of inspiration to Shamrocks on Sunday. The fact that the Springfield men have gone toe to toe with the reigning provincial champions and come out on top is another reason they will not fear the Metropolitans.
Home advantage is a huge plus especially against Dublin opposition and will surely be worth a few points to Shamrocks. The experience of two hard-fought games at the same venue in recent weeks will stand them in good stead.
Traditionally Dublin teams don’t perform as well outside the county and there is always the possibility that the Kickhams will not reach the same heights which saw them unbeaten in 20 games between league and championship.
With that said all Dublin champions deserve enormous respect as their championship is ultra competitive. Dean Rock (son of former Westmeath manager Barney ) has been their scorer-in-chief and Shamrocks would be well advised not to concede frees within scoring range. James McCarthy and Philly McMahon are two other Ballymun players who will need no introduction.
Thankfully Ray Smyth has no injury concerns ahead of the game. The game offers a huge opportunity for the current crop of players to put Shamrocks on the map outside of Westmeath. They will need to hit the ground running to weather the expected early Ballymun storm. Provided they keep in contention until half-time then I think Shamrocks’ traditional strong second-half showing might be enough to see them record a famous victory.