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Sunday 17 November 2019

Doubting Thomas no longer an option

Cracking final in store as Tallaght side seek a return to glory days

Ryan Deegan celebrates following Thomas Davis’ semi-final victory over Kilmacud Crokes.
Ryan Deegan celebrates following Thomas Davis’ semi-final victory over Kilmacud Crokes.

While Ballyboden's presence in next Sunday's Dublin Senior Football Championship final might not have surprised many, it's fair to say that few would have anticipated their opponents being their southside rivals Thomas Davis, especially when you consider the journey the club has taken in recent years.

When the championship was split to separate the 32 senior teams into two categories, Thomas Davis found themselves in SFC2, based on their results over the previous five championships - and it's fair to say that decision did not rest well with those out on Kiltipper Road.

However, they managed to deal with that disappointment in the right manner, winning the Dublin Senior 2 Championship 12 months ago and their season has developed nicely after coming through a difficult group campaign that saw them test themselves against St Jude's, Raheny and St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh.

Their qualification to the last eight was secured on points difference, highlighting the competitive nature of the group, and there were signs of their incremental development in their final group game against St Jude's a month ago.

They may have lost that encounter by four points, Diarmuid McLoughlin scoring an injury-time goal to put a misleading hue on the final scoreline, but they must have derived confidence with competing on an even footing with a team renowned for its consistency at this level.

While that was a dogged and highly defensive-orientated game, Thomas Davis highlighted their adaptability with more progressive play when edging Castleknock a fortnight later.

There was a welcome freshness to their play that afternoon and the momentum from winning was a key factor last Saturday night as they dethroned holders Kilmacud with a fair degree of comfort.

Second-half goals from Ciarán Farrelly and Brendan Kirby, players that have been to the fore in their team's welcome revival, were just reward for their enterprising approach with team manager Paul Kelly thrilled with his team's application and focus on the night.

"I'm over the moon for the group and it has been a tremendous collective delivery for us.

"We are very proud of each and every one of the guys who all worked really hard and I think we played some really nice football again, building on our win against Castleknock in the quarter-finals.

"We are in a place where we love to be and in a final for the first time since 1991/92 so we'll just need to take it on from here.

"We watched the earlier game as well and saw the problems that teams had playing into the top goal (Church End) so to score six points against that breeze was pleasing.

"We were a little bit sloppy at times in the first half so it was great though to go in level from that point of view and even if we'd gone in one or two points down at half-time, we would have been quite happy with the work-rate put in by the guys," he added.

While Thomas Davis have caught a few observers by surprise, the same could not be said of a Ballyboden team that showed great reserves of character to get the better of a St Jude's team that dominated the opening half of their intriguing semi-final.

It wasn't so much that Boden trailed by six points that would have caused alarm in their ranks, but rather the manner in which the game was being played completely on St Judes' terms.

Granted, they were not the first team to ever have them happen to them but it's fair to say they looked in a precarious position at the break but as manager Anthony Rainbow explained, there ability to stay clam and measured at the interval was key to getting them back on track upon the resumption.

"I think the elements played a huge factor in determining the game and we struggled a fair bit playing into that strong wind in terms of our kick-outs.

"In the second half, we dealt with it a lot better and we played more expansive football.

"We pressed their kick-outs and we got a lot of joy from that and at the other end, we only conceded two points which was phenomenal work.

"There was no real panic in the dressing room at half-time as we know we had 30 minutes to get it back.

"It was all about setting our stall out at the start of the second-half, going at them with as much pressure as we could and we managed to do that.

"It's not about one or two players, it's about the full panel and there is always positions up for grabs and they are pushing each other for those positions.

"It's the competition for these places that is pushing these guys forward in training and that's why they're in the county final next Sunday," he added.

That depth may hand Boden a small advantage going into next Sunday but if this season has taught us anything, it's the fact that dismissing a Thomas Davis team out of hand is not the wisest course of action.

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