St Enda's find a way to pick St Jude's lock
Ballyboden St Enda's 2-10 St Jude's 1-10, Dublin SFC1 semi-final
There may be bleaker scenarios in Dublin club football than the one Ballyboden St. Enda's found themselves enmeshed in at half-time on Saturday night in Parnell Park.
But not many.
Six points down against St. Jude's, a team who had conceded an average of less than nine points a game in their run to the semi-finals and most recently, kept a St. Vincent's team not shy on attacking talent to just four points.
The omens then, weren't great for Ballyboden at half-time in the first of Saturday's live TV semi-finals.
Just as foreboding was the fact that their main men were either ineffective or anonymous to that point.
Michael Darragh Macauley fought a running battle (pun fully intended) with referee David Sweeney's steps counter.
Collie Basquel, scorer of a hat-trick in their last game against Na Fianna and arguably the best player of the Championship so far, never scored in that half and barely felt the weight of the ball.
The only Ballyboden man who found any freedom before the sun fell in Parnell Park on Saturday evening was Darren O'Reilly, who discovered a shaft of light down the right flank of the most organised defence in club football in the capital.
We didn't realise it at the time, but O'Reilly's flourish in the first half was a vital, if isolated, moment.
In a half when Ballyboden scored just three times, he twice located an aperture.
The first time, his shot was blocked but a couple of minutes later, he rattled a goal.
It's not an beyond reason to surmise that 'Boden wouldn't have stood a chance of the comeback they staged in the second half without it.
Afterwards, Anthony Rainbow said all the dutiful things about the requirement for improvement next week against shock finalists, Thonas Davis.
But his initial reaction to his team's spirited and calculated comeback on the sideline told a more genuine story.
His team's liberation in the second half was remarkable because effectively, they spent the first in solitary confinement.
By clear and obvious contrast, Jude's worked themselves freely into scoring positions in the first half.
They weaved patterns that ended with Tom Devlin, Niall Coakley and Kevin McManamon receiving the ball in space, time and shot-friendly zones.
Before that even, Chris Guckian scored a goal that much like the old cliché, set the tone for the half.
Against Vincent's two weeks back, Guckian performed an effective man-marking job on Diarmuid Connolly.
Here, he was moved onto the wing and granted licence to raid down the left flank.
It yielded that early goal but it also left space on that wing for O'Reilly.
The suspicion with St. Jude's this year was that for all their meticulous organisation and double-stitched defence, they wouldn't score enough to win their first Dublin SFC title.
In their four previous games, Gareth Roche's team had averaged just over 13 points per match.
They were immeasurably superior to Vincent's in the quarter-final, yet put just 0-11 on the scoreboard.
Here, they had 1-8 by half-time and looked for all the world like scoring something similar in the second half.
'Boden's renaissance wasn't immediate.
They inched back within two by the 44th minute but still, it felt like Jude's would hold them off and use the space created by Ballyboden's high, aggressive press to work the necessary scores.
Macauley, hitherto a dervish of frustrated energy, was a colossus in that period.
He attacked Paul Copeland's kick-outs and carried the ball with extreme prejudice.
Basquel, meanwhile, kicked three testy frees, scored a gem from play off his left and in the 56th minute, the goal that sunk Jude's.
Guckian fumbled a ball under no immediate pressure and Basquel pounced.
He fed Macauley, who drew in the tacklers and then released Basquel.
His shot was unstoppable.
That was the first time that Ballyboden led but they kept pressing and scored two more points.
Jude's meanwhile, scored just two points in that second half and managed only three shots.
It wasn't by design but 'Boden left their surge late. And Basquel and Macauley had turned an exasperating evening into another Dublin SFC final appearance.
SCORERS - Ballyboden St. Enda's: C Basquel 1-4 (0-3f), D O'Reilly 1-1, R Basquel 0-2 (1f), D O'Mahony, D Gogan ('45), R McGarry 0-1. St. Jude's: T Devlin, N Coakley (1f), K McManamon (1f) 0-3 each, C Guckian 1-0, P Clarke (f) 0-1 each.
BALLYBODEN ST. ENDA'S: D Gogan; D Dwan, C Flaherty, S Clayton; D Nelson, D McCabe, R McDaid; MD Macauley, D O'Mahoney; D O'Reilly, C Basquel, A Waters; R McGarry, R Basquel, W Egan. Subs: A Flood for McCabe (h-t), T Hayes for McGarry (44), B Bobbett for O'Mahony (54), J Holland for Egan (63), S Gibbons for Nelson (65)
ST. JUDE'S: P Copeland; O Manning, J McGuire, C Fitzpatrick; T Lahiff, R Martina, C Guckian; M Sweeney, S Ryan; T Devlin, D McLoughlin, K Doherty; N Coakley, K McManamon, P Clarke. Subs: R Joyce for Ryan (47), D Donnelly for McLoughlin (54), D Sheehy for Devlin (58)
REF: D Sweeney (St. Oliver Plunkett's/ER)