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Wednesday 19 December 2018

Ryan desperate to avoid regrets of yesteryear in Ballyhale decider

Cool customer: Ballyboden's Paul Ryan evades Coolderry's
Trevor Corcoran of during Sunday's Leinster Club SHC semi
Cool customer: Ballyboden's Paul Ryan evades Coolderry's Trevor Corcoran of during Sunday's Leinster Club SHC semi

When you're still a teenager, a sporting world waiting to be conquered, defeats can be traumatic but they don't always carry the residue of long-term regret.

It's different when you're 30.

Paul Ryan has lived through a decade of 'what ifs?' for Ballyboden St Enda's. Ditto a handful of his teammates. Now, 11 years after losing their first AIB Leinster club hurling final, Boden will finally get to play a second one on Sunday week, December 2.

Never mind that Ballyhale Shamrocks have been there, done that, worn the T-shirt. This is an opportunity to be grasped by players who thought their chance had gone.

"A massive regret of ours is never doing anything in Leinster," confirms Ryan, who landed the winning frees in the dying minutes of Sunday's epic with Coolderry.

"And we always said if we got back there, look, we'd give it a rattle. So, we're just so happy to get back to a final - and finals are there to just go out and perform."

His previous Leinster club final dates back to December, 2007. Ballyboden had just won a maiden Dublin SHC title (the first of their five-in-a-row) but Ryan didn't feature against St Vincent's that day.

However, he appeared as a sub in their first provincial foray against Oulart-The Ballagh. Then he started the semi-final against Camross, burying a goal inside two minutes en route to top-scoring with 1-3 in a one-point win.

Back then Ryan had just turned 19. The Leinster final pitted Boden against a multi-decorated Birr who led by nine at the break, having played with a Tullamore gale, but the visitors struck the next eight points and, for a while, glory seemed to be beckoning.

It was not to be.

"We thought we should have won that game and we lost by a point. I was only a young lad at that stage. I'm 30 now and you look back at it and, absolutely, it's a missed opportunity," he recalls.

"We have that opportunity to make history for the club."

There are parallels in that Ballyhale, just as Birr were back then, are laden down with Leinster and All-Ireland winning pedigree.

Boden have that too, albeit only in the guise of their dual-playing contingent who won an All-Ireland club football title - against lowly expectations initially - after a remarkable 2015-16 season.

"A massive thing that would be said to us is that Cuala have been the stalwarts in Dublin hurling for the last while but, you know, we don't have to look too far with our own footballers," Ryan points out.

"They nearly had the same route as we're taking, extra-time the whole time. What they did a few years ago was unbelievable. So, we really just want to see if we can reach those heights - but it's one game at a time as well."

Sunday's semi-final must have felt like three games rolled into one. Partly because that's what it entailed, with two bouts of extra-time and an endless series of scoreboard oscillations.

We had ten goals and 53 points; 90 minutes (officially) and countless more of injury-time; four red cards; a loser (Brian Carroll) amassing 2-16 and a match-winner (Collie Basquel) shooting 3-3 from play on his first ever SHC start.

Ryan reckons it may qualify as the maddest game he has ever played in.

"I think so, yeah. Week on week they're just getting tougher," he says. "I suppose we should have closed it out in real time. And then it went to extra-time; should have closed it out then.

"Look, we don't seem to do things easy but we're battle-hardened at this stage and we'll probably be going in as underdogs now into the final."

Only once did he fear defeat - after missing a '65' to equalise, over three minutes into stoppage-time at the end of normal time.

"Yeah, 100 percent, I thought it was over then. I think it was the first time we kind of thought we were not going to come through it," says the Dublin sharpshooter.

"But look, Collie Basquel was absolutely phenomenal. He won the free at the end (which Ryan converted to force extra-time); He scored 3-3."

If Ballyboden are to buck the odds against Ballyhale, it will require another epic contribution from Ryan (the scorer of 14 semi-final points) and all of his colleagues.

"We played Ballyhale before (in 2009) when Henry Shefflin was there... in their prime," he recalls. "Yeah, they seem to have come back very strong again. Absolutely we're up against it, but we seem to have been up against it all year! We seem to relish the battle these days."

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