Wednesday 26 October 2016

'Boden look to avoid the deja blues

John Heslin in action for St Loman’s against Rathnew
John Heslin in action for St Loman’s against Rathnew

For all Ballyboden fans who are motorway-bound tomorrow, there are grounds for optimism and reasons to be fearful too.

St Enda's are provincial favourites - a mantle or millstone (take your pick) automatically placed on whichever club emerges from the capital's senior football bearpit each year.

Should it be any other way? Probably not, given that the last three Dublin champions (or seven of the last ten) have gone on to conquer Leinster. Moreover, while this year's kingpins don't yet carry the fearsome aura of their immediate predecessors, the manner in which they steamrolled St Vincent's in the opening salvos of this year's county final made everyone sit up and take notice.

For all that, the southsiders must beware stepping on a Mullingar landmine. They should know; they've been that stricken soldier.

It could actually help that 'Boden's last provincial foray ended at the same semi-final stage and location. Six years ago, at a blustery Cusack Park, their ambitions were blown away by a Garrycastle team that allied defensive doggedness to the class of Dessie Dolan.


To be forewarned is to be forearmed: 'Boden have no shortage of survivors from that last ill-fated mission.

Critically, that '09 outfit was at least partially undone by the absence of three vital cogs - the suspended Declan O'Mahony, the injured Kenny Naughton and (until late on) a 'flu-stricken Conal Keaney. They don't appear so denuded now, albeit the attack must plough on without Ryan Basquel as he continues his recovery from the broken jaw suffered against Vin's. You also have the ongoing question mark over Paul Durcan and whether the former All Star goalkeeper will be in Ireland or Dubai this weekend.

Some positives? The team's experienced spine looks in very decent working order. Stephen Hiney was immense at full-back as 'Boden eked out a four-point victory over St Patrick's of Louth in treacherous Drogheda conditions. Keaney kicked three inspiring points on a day when scores from play were at a premium. Perched in between you have Michael Darragh Macauley, reduced to the role of impact sub with Dublin this year but defiantly the main midfield man for his club.


For all their obvious qualities, though, 'Boden took all their time to see off Pat's and Loman's would be viewed as a more dangerous opponent. Emerging from Aughrim with a seven-point win over Rathnew read like a statement of intent from the Westmeath champions.

In his first season with the club, Luke Dempsey has put an impressive stamp on a group that carries a fair smattering of county pedigree: John Heslin, Paul Sharry and Shane Dempsey all started this year's Leinster final against Dublin.

For them to progress to a first Leinster final, however, you suspect that Heslin will have to produce one of his ultra-prolific days - and 'Boden have already come up trumps when it came to stifling Diarmuid Connolly just a few weeks ago.

In summary, the visitors are favourites for a reason but they can take nothing for granted.

ODDS: St Loman's 15/8 Draw 15/2 Ballyboden 8/15

VERDICT: Ballyboden

Leinster Club SFC: St Loman's v Ballyboden, Mullingar, Tom 2.0

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