This is the story of how a north Dublin GAA club provided a focal point for local youth in times of economic and social hardship and how it came to embody the indomitable spirit of the community it served. eir sport 1, Sun, Dec 15th 10am
The people of Ballymun are proud of where they live. They have suffered the worst kind of economic hardship and social deprivation and they have endured. There is a strong sense of community in the area. They know where they are from. They are not just northsiders – they are from Ballymun. They have a distinct identity and they are proud of it.
Nowhere is this more apparent than its local GAA club – the Ballymun Kickhams. It too has endured its fair share of ups and downs and, like the community it serves, it has endured. The club has played a crucial role in diverting local youth away from the scourge of drugs and petty criminality that has threatened to engulf the area at various times down through the years. Resilient and defiant, it is the lifeblood of the community, driven by its own beating heart – the core group of volunteers who have shaped and guided it through good times and bad.
Passing It On
Passing It On: Ballymun Kickhams traces the club’s history and its role in the community and pays tribute to some of the key figures who have made it what it is today. Directed by Sorcha Glackin, it features contributions from a number of well-known figures associated with it including six-time All-Ireland winner Philly McMahon, Paddy Christie, Dermot Deasy and Barney Rock.
Ballymun Kickhams was established in 1969 following the merging of two local clubs, Ballymun Gaels and C.J. Kickhams. It achieved senior status in 1978 and made its first Dublin Senior Football Championship final just three years later where they lost to St Vincent’s. But they went one better the following year, beating Erin’s Isle in the final. They won the title again in 1985, but had to wait another 27 years before winning it again in 2012 when they also went on to win the Leinster title for the first time.
The years between, particularly the 1990s, were lean. The underage structure, that crucial nursery of talent all clubs need to succeed, was virtually non-existent and the senior team was fighting relegation. This was when former Kickhams and Dublin player Paddy Christie decided to take action, taking over the Under-10s in an effort to give local youngsters something to do.
McMahon pays tribute to his efforts, noting that while Christie may never have won any All-Ireland medals himself he played a major role in the winning of the 20-plus medals claimed by players he brought through the ranks in Ballymun.
"We were chaotic, things were very poor," Christie remembers of those bleak early days. "Summer camps-wise, when I started there were no camps at all. Other clubs like Kimacud, Ballyboden would have hundreds of kids at their camps. It mushroomed eventually, but it took a while. I think it got to four or five hundred at one stage.”
While much of the focus is on Christie and the cohort of young stars he coached, he himself points to the efforts of former chairman Tom O’Donoghue and current incumbent Declan Small, father of Dublin footballers John and Paddy, as being crucial in the club’s resurrection.
“Declan Small had this initiative and got local people around to take teams, he was very well organised,” Christie says. “He knew what he was doing. He had an idea of how to do things and that kept it going. The team that I took through, that was the groundwork I suppose for the senior Championship-winning team, but the stuff behind it - that's all from what he did."
The reward for all this hard graft came in the form of a third senior title in 2012 as the Kickhams edged out Kilmacud Crokes by a single point before going on to win the Leinster crown by beating Portlaoise in the provincial final. The squad included many of the players that Christie had coached.
The future looks bright at underage level too as the Ballymun Minors, also managed by Christie, achieved an historic Minor 'A' Football Championship, Division 1 League title and Leinster Minor Football Championship treble in 2015.
Roll on the next generation…..
There are plenty of great documentaries to watch out for on the eir sport pack every week. From football to golf, GAA, rugby, athletics and beyond, we’ve got something for everyone. Watch out next week for another fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the sporting world or go to eirsport.ie for more sports news and stories or eir.ie to find out more about how we're setting sport free.