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Saturday 3 December 2016

'Boden cap great year in style

Ballyboden St Enda’s captain Darragh Nelson lifts the Cup
Ballyboden St Enda’s captain Darragh Nelson lifts the Cup

Another classic of the Leinster club football final genre. Yet another Dublin winner, too. In Tullamore yesterday, as the dark fell on the football season that was, Ballyboden set off for Firhouse to introduce their provincial title to their Dublin SFC crown.

There and then, it was twee but probably pertinent to recall how unfancied they were to come through the shark-infested waters of their own county Championship when it cranked back up after Dublin's All-Ireland win in September.

Ballyboden, to all but the shrewdest soothsayers, were more a stress-test to the big teams than credible winners.

So we thought, anyway.

Now, they're champions of Leinter, having firstly scythed through Dublin's aristocracy in Kilmacud Croks, St Oliver Plunkett's/ER and St Vincent's and yesterday, enduring all the drama of O'Connor Park yesterday a point up.

How?

Portlaoise will have a skip full of regrets.

Again.

Paul Cahillane's late free being the most stomach-churning, but also the one-on-one goal chances spurned by 'Bruno' McCormack and Brian Glynn.

But 'Boden did plenty of heavy lifting yesterday and were as entitled to their luck as anyone.

Relax

"You're always questioning fellas and you're always trying to challenge fellas to get up to the next level," reflected their manager, Andy McEntee afterwards of a year of surprise, intrigue and success for his team.

"And in all fairness to them, they didn't really get a chance to relax after winning Dublin.

"They've just continued to work. And that's what they did out there today.

"It mightn't have been pretty but they just continued to work. I think that reflected in the result."

Football isn't perfect in December and yesterday wasn't conducive to anything flowery but with two teams set up to invent and venture rather than conserve and protect, we had a belter.

'Boden are mostly young and zippy and in Conal Keaney, they had an accurate long range free-taker and a sort of winter Gaelic football openside flanker, a player strong and bull-headed enough to emerge from ruck of bodies in possession.

The Dublin hurler also had a couple of vital late assists, including a long delivery from which Aran Waters kicked their winner.

In Shane Clayton, they had an adhesive man-marker, too, and he shrouded Cahillane well throughout.

They also have a couple of war horses in the likes of Stephen Hiney and Declan O'Mahony and the indomitable Michael Darragh Macauley.

It's a compelling mix.

"Look, I think there's a lot of things we could do better," McEntee suggested.

"We could defend better.

"We didn't spot where we were causing them trouble and go after it. I thought that long diagonal ball was causing them trouble but I don't think we did enough of it.

"We actually overdid it in the middle of the field.

"But in all fairness, only for Paul Durcan, we could have been in real trouble."

Good point, well made.

Durcan's availability has been a source of much mystery this year but he was worth every air mile and more, to and back from Qatar, for Ballyboden yesterday.

His kick-outs were, as ever, superb.

But the second half saves were utterly vital.

Firstly, Brian Glynn banked on the Donegal goalkeeper going down early and tried a dinked finish but Durcan stayed up and batted away.

More impressively, McCormack snapped a shot and Durcan deflected onto the his right-hand post.

"He hit it well enough but I was lucky enough to get a hand to it and I think it bounced out well for us off the post so we were lucky enough,"

"Then they missed two chances at the end that they wouldn't normally miss, so we were lucky enough in that way."

Lucky too that Cahillane sent such a kickable free to high and horrifically wide when point would have given us extra-time in the almost-dark.

"We were just thinking get the ball out and get it up the pitch with a good long kick.

"We had said to the boys on the line to maybe try and break it the other way and get it up the pitch and get a score off it."

'Boden started the better and Andrew Kerin - the man who likes to score goals in finals - did his little trick here again but Portlaoise played most of the better football of the half and when Cahillane fisted past Durcan to put them two points up close to half-time, they looked more convincing winners too.

Response

Macauley responded with a goal almost immediately, though and in the tug-of-war that was the second-half, 'Boden were simply the ones who didn't slip in the mud.

"Our response to the goal was good ourselves," McEntee agreed.

"We came down and got one straight away.

"Again, it's difficult to keep going. When you're playing top teams. You're not going to stay on top the whole time."

"You've got to try to make the most of it when you're on top and minimise their effectiveness when they're on top."

Last time 'Boden won Dublin in 2009, their subsequent Leinster campaign was something of a damp squib but now, they've an All-Ireland semi-final against Clonmel Commercials or Tir Chonaill Gaels to look forward to in February.

"I don't know," shrugged McEntee when asked how long he'd give his players off now.

"I've never been here before so I don't really know!

"I better ring somebody and find out what we're going to do!"

"Ah, we'll have to take a breather. It's February for the All-Ireland semi-final so they deserve a break," he concluded.

"But not too much…"

SCORERS - Ballyboden St Enda's: A Kerin 1-2, C Keaney 0-4 (4f), MD Macauley 1-0, C Basquel, A Waters, S Maloney 0-1 each. Portlaoise: P Cahillane 1-2 (0-2f), C Rogers (1f), S Smyth, B McCormack 0-2 each, C Healy, E Whelan, B Glynn 0-1 each.

BALLYBODEN: P Durcan; D Dwane, S Clayton, S Hiney; S O'Connor, D Nelson, R McDaid; MD Macauley, D O'Mahony; D Davey, D O'Reilly, C Basquel; C Keaney, S Maloney, A Kerin. Subs: S Gibbons for Davey (34), A Waters for O'Reilly (42), S Durkin for O'Connor (50), D McCabe for O'Mahony (62)

PORTLAOISE: G Brody; J Delaney, C Healy, D Seale; E Whelan, K Lillis, B Mulligan; D Cullen, C Boyle; G Dillon, B Smyth, G Glynn; B McCormack, P Cahillane, C Rogers. Subs: C Dunphy for Cullen (13), R Maher for Dillon (52)

WIDES - Ballyboden: 6 (5 + 1). Portlaoise: 5 (2 + 7).

BOOKED - Ballyboden: (Keaney 26, O'Connor 51, O'Mahony 63). Portlaoise: 0

ATTENDANCE: 3,663.

REF: J Hickey (Carlow)

MAN OF THE MATCH: Paul Durcan (Ballyboden St Enda's)

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