Brilliant Boden wrap up drive for five
IT may 'just' be the number after four and before six but five has been something of a cursed number in GAA lore.
First Kerry in 1982 and then, last year, Kilkenny failed to stretch their respective All-Ireland dominance into five championship titles in-a-row so going into yesterday's Evening Herald Dublin SHC 'A' final in Parnell Park, Ballyboden St Enda's had every right to be wary.
They needn't have worried. Half a decade's superiority over Dublin hurling has resulted in a fifth county title, won at the expense of one of the pre-Boden era giants, O'Toole's, by a revealing scoreline of 3-12 to 0-9.
As is their wont nowadays, Liam Hogan's men dominated the match and without their twin treasures, Conal Keaney and Stephen Hiney, the extent of the result -- and indeed their total dominance of this year's competition -- merely proves how far they have come since winning their first title back in 2007.
The absence of the talismanic Keaney and Hiney may yet stifle their Leinster ambitions but they look no less equipped for the task than they were with the duo in tow this time last year.
It's one of the immense strengths of this Ballyboden team that without two current Dublin seniors, former inter-county players and -- most probably -- future Dubs can step into and take up the strain.
Yesterday, even the previously spectacular Paul Ryan had a slightly off day but the rest of the 'Boden attack duly filled in the scoring gaps anyway.
This year's All-Ireland SHC top-scorer averaged 10 points in the championship before yesterday's final, but managed 'only' 1-3 -- all from placed-balls, and shot more wides in the first half (five) than we can remember Ryan hitting in 2011 in its entirety.
No matter. A former Dublin sniper, Emmet Carroll, pitched in with 1-2, Ryan's county team-mate, Conor McCormack, got 1-1, while the impressive David O'Connor also made his mark with a brace of excellent points.
Carroll's goal after 16 minutes was the first sign that 'Boden possessed that extra gear which the rest of the hurling teams in Dublin have failed to match for the past half a decade.
No one likes scoring championship goals more than Carroll (and few, if any, have scored quite as many) and he showed the old instinct was still there when he capitalised on some hesitance from the O'Toole's full-back line to deal with a long Stephen Nolan sideline to put Boden out in front by 1-3 to 0-3.
Until that juncture, it was largely tit-for-tat, with O'Toole's starting Peadar Carton and Graham Morris in midfield and profiting from their typical blood-and-thunder approach.
Unfortunately for O'Toole's, there is no team quite so well equipped for physical exchanges as St Enda's and and there isn't a 'Boden player quite so physical as centre-back, Stephen Nolan.
The former Wexford star dominated the airspace around Boden's own '45' and with Stephen Nagle, Dean Curran and Marty O'Sullivan also excelling in defence, there was little doubt but that O'Toole's would be forced to feed off a premium of scoring chances.
At the other end, Carroll, McCormack and O'Connor made hay.
It says plenty of the growing reputation of Ryan's dead ball skills that when Carroll was fouled by Michael Cunningham outside the large square, a excited murmur came from the various stands and terraces around Parnell Park. Nothing surer, we thought, than Ryan would go for goal.
He did. And the result was somewhat predictable and coming as it did -- at the very end of the first half and after a string of three 'Boden points -- it was really the killer moment.
Typically, O'Toole's didn't let their heads drop but, even more typically, 'Boden smelled blood and went looking for flesh. McCormack -- who put in an astoundingly committed display -- found himself isolated with Cunningham just 20 metres out right in front of Brendan McLoughlin's goal just two minutes after the restart.
The man who sprang to the attention of the Dublin senior management with his performance in last year's county final with an incredible goal against Craobh Chiaráin, repeated the trick -- albeit from much closer in -- by barging his way past his marker and firing home. From there -- 3-6 to 0-7 -- the contest was over and as the rain descended, both teams missed a scatter of chances.
If anything, Ballyboden should have finished with a greater winning margin. McCormack was fouled by a trio of panicked O'Toole's backs just three minutes after his goal but Ryan's pristinely-struck penalty pinged back off the bar and he was denied. Likewise, Tim Sweeney might have hit the net with his first touch after a sumptuous move involving Shane Durkin and Simon Lambert but blazed marginally over.
All in all though, it was an impressive display of Boden's superiority, one which suggested strongly that there is more to come.