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Boden's old dogs for hard road

Macauley, Keaney and O'Mahoney as influential now as they were in 2016

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Michael Darragh Macauley has been struggling with a groin injury but has made important contributions from the bench. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Michael Darragh Macauley has been struggling with a groin injury but has made important contributions from the bench. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Michael Darragh Macauley has been struggling with a groin injury but has made important contributions from the bench. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

One of the recurring feature of these All-Ireland club championships is the fact that few sides go all the way without a couple of hoary old veterans to see them up the steps of the Hogan Stand.

Kieran Fitzgerald turns 39 this year. Gary Sice is 35.

In the recent Connacht final victory over Pádraig Pearses, they were as influential as ever, quicker in the mind than any opposition player was on foot, and have been vital elements of Corofin's back-to-back All-Ireland winning teams.

In 2017, Dr Crokes had Colm Cooper, then 33 and Eoin Brosnan, 37 and four years retired with Kerry by the time Dr Crokes ended their 25 year-wait for All-Ireland honours.

In 2013, Shane Curran (42) and Frankie Dolan (35) were hugely influential for St Brigid's and though Ger Brennan and Tomás Quinn were younger when they steered St Vincent's to the Andy Merrigan Cup a year later, both had played their last championship game for Dublin by then.

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Conal Keaney (far right) has had a great career in both hurling and football for Ballyboden. Pic: Sportsfile

Conal Keaney (far right) has had a great career in both hurling and football for Ballyboden. Pic: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Conal Keaney (far right) has had a great career in both hurling and football for Ballyboden. Pic: Sportsfile

Complicated

Similarly, Ballyboden St Enda's had a predominantly young team with a couple of hugely-influential exceptions when they won the All-Ireland in 2016. Those players are almost four years older now, yet no less influential, as they bid to make the final once more against Kilcoo today in Breffni Park.

"His football speaks for itself," says Ballyboden defender Shane Clayton of Michael Darragh Macauley, now 33 and in possession of seven All-Ireland medals.

Macauley's involvement with Boden this year has been complicated by a groin injury.

He was taken off in the Dublin SFC quarter-final against Na Fianna but brought back on for extra-time and played a key role in Colm Basquel's winning goal.

Regardless, his contribution has been pronounced.

Against Newtown Blues in the first round of Leinster, Ballyboden had only just inched into a late lead at the time of his arrival, yet he played a key role in two late goals.

Ditto in the Leinster final, when he finished off the move that preceded Boden's eighth and final score against Éire Óg in Portlaoise.

"He's been going for nine, ten years with Dublin. He's obviously getting a bit older," Clayton points out.

"That takes its toll on his body.

"So he needs to look after himself and do what's best for him and the team."

Similarly, it''s difficult to know what's most impressive about Conal Keaney (37) - his ability to switch between codes so frequently without discernible loss of skill or his capacity to come back from serious injury so often late in his career.

In December 2018, he underwent shoulder reconstruction surgery and missed the National Hurling League.

Yet nobody in Parnell Park on June 15th - when he tore into Galway in the last round of the Leinster championship like a man possessed - will forget his performance any time soon.

As Clayton points out: "He just loves the game. Loves Ballyboden. Loves football and hurling. He's probably the best player in both codes to come out of Ballyboden."

"Us young lads are looking at him, thinking 'how are you still playing and delivering at a high level?'

"He's someone we all want to look forward to being. We take everything we can off him. Because the amount of people that look up to him…the whole squad does.

"What he's won in both codes with Ballyboden over the years has been ridiculous."

Declan O'Mahoney meanwhile, is the least well-known of Boden's veteran trio but, arguably, he is their most influential footballer through the last 15 years.

He actually missed the 2016 All-Ireland club final due to a suspension he incurred after being sent off in the All-Ireland semi-final against Clonmel Commericals, so he has even more reason to be focused on the task of getting back to Croke Park than the rest of his team-mates.

"He's more focused than the rest of us…but more because he's a freak," Clayton says.

"He loves the game. Loves Ballyboden. I think he's playing the best football of his career.

"He's always there at training. He never seems to be injured. He has a family as well. Us, we're doing nothing. And he's balancing all of this.

"He's great," Clayton adds. "We all look up to him. We all love him."