THE black and red of Mount Leinster Rangers was flying high at Dr Cullen Park after the Carlow champions shocked their Dublin counterparts in a thriller.
This was no fluke result as Rangers came good in the second half to become the first Carlow team to reach a Leinster senior club hurling final, sending the huge home support into raptures. Twenty scores to Rangers against 12 for Ballyboden tells its own story.
In a game of high quality, there was huge drama before Rangers could celebrate a historic victory.
With the teams deadlocked at 2-9 to 0-15, Ballyboden were awarded a contentious penalty in the 52nd minute for a jersey pull. County star Paul Ryan's shot was brilliantly saved by Rangers goalie Frank Foley.
Foley had been joined on the goal-line by Diarmuid Byrne and Eddie Byrne. Following the save, Diarmuid Byrne cleared his lines, finding namesake Eddie, who by now had ghosted forward. The No 11 found himself in open country and rattled the Ballyboden net. It represented a six-point turnaround and showcased the strong team ethic of the Carlow side.
Ballyboden's cause suffered further when former All Star goalie Gary Maguire received a straight red card for an incident with a Rangers player which yielded a penalty – Denis Murphy opted for the safety of a point to put Rangers four points clear, and they were five points to the good when Murphy raised another white flag from a free.
Ballyboden were awarded a second penalty in injury-time which Ryan crashed to the net.
Now defending a dangerous two-point advantage, Foley came to his team's rescue when making himself big to foil Niall McMorrow's shot for goal.
Earlier, Ballyboden had the benefit of two first-half goals to keep them in the lead.
Gavin Corrigan scored the first in the sixth minute after Rangers midfielder Derek Byrne had opened the scoring with a point from play.
With the sides level, McMorrow's long delivery on 22 minutes was fastened onto by Conor McCormack, who scored a fine goal from an acute angle. Ballyboden led by 2-7 to 0-11 at half-time.
Rangers moved shrewdly on the sideline by switching corner-back Gary Kelly with full-back Garry Doyle in order to curb Ryan's influence, while the moving of right half-back Diarmuid Byrne onto McCormack also proved fruitful.
An inspirational point from a sideline cut by 19-year-old Diarmuid Byrne levelled the game at 0-15 to 2-9 on 44 minutes. Roared on by their fans, who now sensed that a shock was on, Rangers pushed on to go five clear before Ryan's goal meant more nail-biting for the Rangers followers.
This victory comes in a year when Carlow also eliminated Dublin from the Leinster U-21 hurling championship.
Rangers, the combination of Borris/Ballymurphy/Rathanna, have now gone where no other Carlow team has gone before.
Wexford champions Oulart-The Ballagh await in the Leinster final on Sunday, December 1.
Scorers – Mount Leinster Rangers: D Murphy 0-9 (6fs, 1 '65', 0-1 pen), E Byrne 1-2, Derek Byrne 0-3, P Coady, J Coady, Diarmuid Byrne (s-l) 0-1 each. Ballyboden St Enda's: P Ryan 1-4 (1-0 pen, 2fs), C McCormack 1-2, G Corrigan 1-1, N McMorrow, F McGarry 0-1 each.
Mount Leinster Rangers – F Foley; M Doyle, G Doyle, G Kelly; Diarmuid Byrne, R Coady, E Coady; Derek Byrne, P Nolan; P Coady, E Byrne, D Phelan; D Murphy, J Coady, E Doyle. Subs: H P O'Byrne for Phelan (44), W Hickey for J Coady (59), J Hickey for Derek Byrne (60).
Ballyboden St Enda's – G Maguire; S O'Connor, D Curran, M Travers; T Sweeney, S Hiney, C Robinson; S Durkin, N McMorrow; C Keaney, D Curtin, C McCormack; G Corrigan, P Ryan, F McGarry. Subs: M Nagle for Robinson (41), D Sweeney for McGarry (41), J Roche for Curtin (inj, 51), C Dooley for Corrigan (56).
Ref – J Owens (Wexford)