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05th Sep 2022

Northside vs Southside as Ballymun and Cuala stars go toe-to-toe like the warriors they are

Niall McIntyre

No quarter asked and, as you’d expect from warriors like these, no quarter given.

There was an unforgettable moment in the 2020 All-Ireland semi-final when Lee Keegan and John Small went toe to toe. Two harder men you will not find.

Small had just released the ball down by the sideline and that was when Keegan came in, all fire and brimstone, and laid him out with a shoulder. If it was soccer then Small would have spent the next five minutes rolling around but this was the furthest thing from it.

Because in his attempts to show no weakness, Small got straight back to his feet before horsing into the Mayo man. And that was the moment.

They were fierce rivals on the field, they’d just hopped off each other but there they were, in the middle of a big championship battle, with broad smiles on their faces. It wasn’t long before they were laughing at each other, both of them revelling in the battle.

And both Cuala and Ballymun revelled in the battle on Sunday.

It’s always a joy to watch inter-county team-mates go head-to-head on the club stage and that’s exactly what they did on Sunday. There was no shortage of inter-county stars in Parnell Park and as the northsiders clashed with the southsiders, we were treated to one hell of a spectacle.

John Small vs Con O’Callaghan was ferocious. By this stage we all know that if John Small’s given a job, then you can take it for granted that he will take that job very seriously, very seriously indeed.

He kept Con scoreless from play. And as you can see in the below clip, even as the clock ticked, and even with just minutes to go, he was still sticking like glue to the Cuala forward’s every move.

Con did shake him off once or twice, and still had an impact on the game, but then, as you can also see in the below clip, just as Con got away from his man-marker, the Ballymun man had some back-up arranged. James McCarthy was on hand, and he hit Con like a train.

Mick Fitzsimons and fellow Dub footballer Peadar Ó Cofaigh Byrne got involved then and it was like a south-side vs north-side royal rumble. Fitzsimons gave it to Small and Small gave it straight back to him. James McCarthy took his booking on the chin.

And in the end, it was Cuala, on a scoreline of 2-8 to 0-11, who advance to the quarter finals, as Ballymun’s championship dreams were ended for another year. All’s fair in love and war and in the spirit of the game, it was all smiles and handshakes afterwards.

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