Curtin on song to seal fab four for Ballyboden
HAIL the conquering heroes of Ballyboden St Enda's, winners of this title for the fourth successive year.
There was simply no stopping the champs from stamping their class all over a pulsating and entertaining final, in which a gallant St Vincent's played their part in testing the reigning title holders at Parnell Park yesterday.
This victory makes Ballyboden the first Dublin club side to win a four-in-a-row since Garda achieved that feat in 1928. Garda went on to make it five in 1929, but despite the wide scoring margin at the finish yesterday, Ballyboden boss Liam Hogan would not be tempted into looking too far into the future.
After paying tribute to his players for the work and commitment which brought them their victory, he said: "It's in years to come these guys will look back and appreciate what they've done here today.
"Now we have a date with O'Loughlin Gaels in the Leinster championship, and that's the first thing we've to think about. We have let ourselves down badly in Leinster for the last two years. We really wanted to get back into Leinster to show that we we're not as bad as we were in the last two years.
"But we knew that if we started looking too far ahead that we would trip and fall. So, we had to take each game, one at a time."
Ballyboden's build-up was affected by the abrupt loss of stalwart centre-forward Stephen Perkins, who announced in the dressing-room after the semi-final he had no option, but to take up an offer of a job in Australia.
Hogan admitted that this was "a bombshell," although the management knew that Perkins, an architect, was soon to leave Ireland after spending time in Oz earlier in the summer seeking employment. The final came just a week too late for Perkins (35).
Corner-forward Paul Ryan failed a fitness test on Saturday night with a hamstring problem, but Perkins' and Ryan's replacements, Simon Lambert and Niall McMorrow respectively, made a seamless transition into the forward line.
Lambert scored 0-3 and McMorrow got 1-1, with his 40th-minute second-half goal having a decisive effect on the match. But let's rewind the tape here.
The match was played at a fast pace, with a sharp intensity by both sides, and in the final analysis, Ballyboden's three goals came at significant moments to enable them to kill off the St Vincent's challenge.
Goal No 1 was stunning -- a 35-metre burst through the Vincent's defence by Conor McCormack before he lashed a ferocious shot to the net. That came with just nine minutes played and with the scores 0-2 to 0-1 in favour of Ballyboden.
Goal No 2 was scored after 40 minutes by McMorrow, who took a pass from McCormack and fended off two heavy tackles before taking his score.
And within a minute, Conal Keaney chased down a long clearance by Malachy Travers to get inside Vincent's full-back Declan Qualter and touch the sliotar home for the third goal. In between McMorrow and Keaney's goals came a goal by Vincent's corner-forward Thomas Connolly.
It was hectic action, and Connolly's goal was typical of the Vins' heart all afternoon. They never led in the match, but kept bouncing back with defiance and nicking scores to stay reasonably in touch for two thirds of the game.
They trailed by six points on a 1-11 to 0-8 scoreline at half-time, but the goal-burst by 'Boden, the free-taking prowess of David Curtin -- who scored seven of his nine points from frees -- and the unrelenting effort of the champs eventually wore St Vincent's down.
In the last 18 minutes of normal time, and over two minutes of time added on by referee David O'Donovan, the Vins failed to score, while Ballyboden raised five white flags during the same period.
Ballyboden goalie and captain Gary Maguire had to be sharp to combine with his defenders to prevent Vincent's full-forward Damian Russell from getting a goal on two occasions, while Vins 'keeper Thomas Carroll made a couple of vital blocks from close-range shots by Keaney and McMorrow.
Dual star Keaney was the target man for Ballyboden and took some hard knocks which Curtin converted into points from frees.
In the early part of second half Keaney really sparkled, when Vincent's, inspired by Diarmuid Connolly, came out with a big surge.
The 'Boden defensive screen, with half-backs Stephen Hiney, Stephen Nolan and Travers playing prominent roles, stopped many Vincent's advances and quickly turned defence into attack.
Nolan survived a broken-finger scare. The management took him off after 50 minutes and replaced him with Peter Buckeridge, but once they were happy Nolan's finger was not fractured, he was back on within a couple of minutes, replacing corner-back Brendan Treacy.
St Vincent's manager Shay Fleming had no complaints. "We're gutted," he said. "We felt we had a half-decent chance coming in against 'Boden, but they're a fabulous team. I hope they go on to win Leinster and the All-Ireland and do Dublin hurling proud."
Scorers -- Ballyboden St Enda's: D Curtin 0-9 (0-7f), C Keaney, N McMorrow 1-1 each, C McCormack 1-0, S Lambert 0-3, D Sweeney, J Doody, S Durkin 0-1 each. St Vincent's: T Connolly 1-3 (0-2f), S Loughlin 0-4, D Connolly, T McGrane, C Billings 0-1 each.
Ballyboden St Enda's -- G Maguire; B Treacy, D Spain, M O'Sullivan; S Hiney, S Nolan, M Travers; D Curtin, S Durkin; C McCormack, S Lambert, D Sweeney; N McMorrow, C Keaney, J Doody. Subs: P Buckeridge for S Nolan (50), S Nolan for B Treacy (53), D O'Connor for D Sweeney (55), T Sweeney for S Lambert (57).
St Vincent's -- T Carroll; R Pocock, D Qualter, M Kirwan; R Trainor, R Fallon, W Lowry; C Fallon, D Connolly; P Fleury, K Connolly, S Loughlin; T McGrane, D Russell, T Connolly.
Subs: C Billings for K Connolly (20), M Chawke for P Fleury (45), I Fleming for C Fallon (50).
Ref -- D O'Donovan (St Marks).