McEntee's praise for 'Boden's 'character'
Ballyboden 0-15 Clonmel 0-10
Published 15/02/2016 | 02:30
O'Moore Park was like a pub at the end, with the lights being turned off and supporters being asked to leave the field over the PA system.
The Portlaoise venue needed to be turned around for games on Sunday and the groundsmen were eager to get to work.
Fans of both sides spilled onto the pitch when Barry Cassidy brought things to a close. The result had been known for some time by that stage as Ballyboden St Enda's had dominated every minute of the extra 20 played.
But that doesn't tell half the story.
Clonmel Commercials had both won and lost the game in the five minutes before the end of normal time.
They led by three points when Ballyboden's Declan O'Mahony was sent off for a straight red card with just seven minutes to play. That might have been it. It should have been it. But Clonmel left the door open and Ballyboden, as they have shown time and again this campaign, don't need much invitation.
Andrew Kerin cut the gap to two points but Clonmel looked home when Conal Keaney missed a short-range free straight in front of the goals, inexplicably dropping his effort short.
After benefiting from a bad miss from a free in the Leinster final, it looked like the worm had turned. In injury-time, the sides swapped points and when Kerin knocked over another free, with just over a minute of the three added on to play, it looked like Keaney's miss would go down in club infamy.
But last-chance saloons can attract the most unlikely of customers. Sensing his side were almost done, captain Darragh Nelson found the energy to burst forward.
Ballyboden had broken into double figures for wides and Nelson broke into double figures for steps in his approach. Barry Cassidy missed them but, credit to Nelson, he was calm enough to stroke over and secure extra-time.
It was a lifeline with Ballyboden manager Andy McEntee admitting he thought the game was gone from them with the sending-off.
"You'd have to say with what, four, five minutes to go, a man down and three points down and having missed as many chances as we did, you'd say, 'Okay, it's not going to be our day'" he said.
"But we talked a lot all year about character and never giving up and they didn't give up. They kept just getting a lease of energy and running at them and the last score was a fantastic score, in the circumstances, with the pressure that was on."
Whatever energy was left in Clonmel's legs were sapped by that score while Ballyboden played like a team who knew they had gotten a second chance at things.
When Michael Quinlivan, the hero of their Munster final comeback, was black-carded just two minutes into the added period, it was another hammer blow. At this stage, the greater depth of Ballyboden's panel and their physical edge began to show.
For an hour, Clonmel had been able to compensate for their smaller stature in most areas of the pitch but as the extra-time wore on and McEntee was able to empty his superior bench, little cracks became gaping holes. Ballyboden would outscore their opponents by 0-5 to no score in injury-time.
The Dubliners had different heroes at different times. No one did more to keep them afloat when they were shipping water in normal than Michael Darragh Macauley. In added time, Keaney got his hands on an ocean of ball though he admitted afterwards that missed free might have haunted him.
"I was thinking I'll have to think about this for the rest of the year now," he smiled. "It really just sums up the character of the team. We were dead and gone, and real leaders stood up - Darragh Nelson coming through there in the last couple of seconds to get the equaliser.
"And I think our fitness and our strength, that work we've been doing all year, probably set us apart in extra-time. They were starting to make mistakes and they were running out of steam a bit.
"But fair play to them, they really threw everything at us and we were very lucky to get out of here."
Clonmel's adventure ended but agonisingly for them it ends on a 'what should have been' rather than a 'what if'.
"We're gutted," Clonmel manager Charlie McGeever said afterwards. "It's definitely one we left behind. We had the game won, three points up. That little bit of inexperience about killing games which we talked about. All in all, we were probably two fouls away from an All-Ireland.
"Had we killed two or three balls in the last three (minutes), we probably would have been there. We had momentum all the way through the game. We stuck with them. They were asked questions today that they hadn't been asked before in the championship before.
"It's not the one you want to lose because we should be in an All-Ireland final but I hope they bring that with them. We've a full squad ready to play next year. They will stay together and hopefully that experience will move them on but, hey lads, we might never see this day again. Getting back to here is not an easy job, is it?"
Scorers - Ballyboden: A Kerin 0-7 (4f), C Keaney 0-4 (3f), S Molony, C Basquel, D Nelson, R Basquel 0-1. Clonmel: I Barnes 0-3 (2f), M Quinlivan 0-2 (1f); J Kennedy 0-2, K Harney, J Lonergan 0-1.
Ballyboden - P Durcan; B Dwan, S Hiney, S Clayton; R McDaid, D Nelson, A Waters; MD Macauley, D O'Mahoney; D Davey, C Basquel, D O'Reilly; C Keaney, S Molony, A Kerin. Subs: R Basquel for Davey (33 mins); S O'Connor for O'Reilly (34); S Gibbons for Molony and S Durkin for S Clayton (both 55); D McCabe for Gibbons (70); S Lambert for Molony (77).
Clonmel - J McDonald; F Condon, J Peters, D Lynch; D Madigan, K Fahey, L Moore; S Kennedy, J Kennedy; A Matassa, J Lonergan, I Fahey; I Barnes, M Quinlivan, K Harney. Subs: P White for Madigan (48); P Looram for Barnes (55); S Taylor for Condon (BC 62); N Kelly for Qunlivan (BC 62); S Flynn for Looram (71).
Ref - B Cassidy (Derry)