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Saturday 16 December 2017

Deadly Boden go for early kill

Ballyboden St Enda's 2-14 Castlebar 0-7

Ballyboden St Enda’s captain, Darragh Nelson, celebrates just after the final whistle Photo: Sportsfile
Ballyboden St Enda’s captain, Darragh Nelson, celebrates just after the final whistle Photo: Sportsfile
Conal Keaney and Michael Darragh Macauley embrace following Ballyboden St Enda’s AIB All-Ireland club SFC victory Photo: Sportsfile

There were less than 90 seconds on the clock when Ryan Basquel cut open the Castlebar Mitchels defence and set up his brother, Colm, for a clinically executed goal.

The trend of yesterday's AIB All-Ireland club senior football final was established already.

From there on, Ballyboden St Enda's were utterly dominant en route to their maiden All-Ireland triumph ... while Castlebar were a mess.

Of all the possible outcomes debated beforehand, what actually transpired in front of a Croke Park crowd of 31,518 would have featured near the bottom of the list.

The Dublin champions were underdogs with the bookies and most of the pundits. That is not to say their victory, when it happened, was a bolt straight out of left-field; rather, that the manner of this 13-point cakewalk caught everyone by surprise. Including, one presumes, Castlebar.

Maybe Basquel's early goal had a totally demoralising impact on the 4/9 favourites, although their fightback from an equally fraught start against Crossmaglen last month had suggested they were made of sterner stuff.

Brain-freeze      

Either way, the Mayo men appeared to suffer a collective brain-freeze and Ballyboden feasted on their failings.

When Andrew Kerin calmly dispatched a 15th minute penalty, low to the left, the southsiders led by 2-3 to 0-0. Nine-point deficits have been overturned before; it was never going to happen here.

Rather than focus too long or harshly on another Mayo meltdown in Croker, any fair assessment of yesterday's final must start and end with Ballyboden's mastery - both on the pitch and on the line.

First up, this was a spectacular triumph for Andy McEntee, the Meath man behind this historic Dublin success story.

While his hand was partially tied by Declan O'Mahony's unsuccessful foray to the DRA, McEntee's team selection was bold and his tactics on the money. He made three changes from the match programme team (the 15 that started against Clonmel Commercials) and, in the process, maximised the pace at his disposal to demolish the supposed strengths of Castlebar.

The half-back line benefitted from the introduction of Stephen O'Connor and Shane Durkin, two of the club's dual players, who bombed forward to telling effect. O'Connor landed one first half point, crowning a move initiated by a sublime Paul Durcan kickout, and Dublin hurler Durkin added a second half brace.

Robbie McDaid had been listed at wing-back but actually moved to half-forward for a de facto man-marking job on Paddy Durcan. The latter had been Castlebar's chief inspiration in the semi-final, bursting forward to land three exquisite points; he was still one of their best performers but never got the same latitude to shine.

Mind you, he could have been Messi and it wouldn't have mattered, so woefully off-form were so many teammates.

Other key pre-match McEntee moves? Relocating Aran Waters to midfield and recalling Ryan Basquel for the first time since suffering a broken jaw in the Dublin county final.

The elder Basquel injected pace, energy and a brace of points to an attack that had been questioned for its lack of a 'marquee forward'.

Waters, meanwhile, was immense in the engine-room, epitomised by his exquisite through pass for a tenth minute goal chance, spurned by Ryan Basquel's over-carry, and his own surging run that drew the foul by Tom Cunniffe for the penalty.

Once Kerin converted, it was game over.

They led by 2-5 to 0-3 at half-time and while it could have been closer (Durcan's fingertip save to deny Neil Lydon is an early Save of the Season contender) it could also have been worse for Castlebar, so wide open were they at the back.

Boden, by contrast, were usually touch-tight to their men, none more adhesive than the excellent Shane Clayton.

For a while after half-time it turned even more gruesome for Castlebar: Boden eased 12 clear with the next four points. This phase included a third point from nominal corner-back Bob Dwan, who reaped such a bonanza following Richie Feeney out the field that he ended with TG4's Man of the Match bauble.

Collapsed

But that score also showcased just how far Castlebar heads had collapsed. The classy Colm Basquel had a goal chance saved and, as the ball pinged around before Dwan eventually pointed, at one stage you had five Boden attackers in the large parallelogram - and just two defenders.

They eventually lost by 13, completing an unenviable hat-trick for Mayo clubs who have lost this year's junior, intermediate and now senior club finals ... while Boden, unlikely kings of the capital, are now champions of Ireland too.

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