IT'S not every day that red-hot favourites scrape home by a couple of points and their manager later expresses himself "delighted" with the entire exercise.
But that's exactly how Liam Hogan felt after watching Ballyboden St Enda's emerge, shaken and stirred but still intact, from yesterday's Leinster club SHC quarter-final in Mullingar.
To Clonkill went the unwanted mantle of moral victors, coupled with bouquets of high praise from the opposing boss. To 'Boden went the far more critical spoils of war -- a semi-final date with Offaly champions Coolderry next Sunday.
Hogan insists there will be no divided loyalties when facing his native club in Parnell Park. He's equally adamant that the Dublin champions should be far better steeled for that task after yesterday's surprisingly fraught 2-12 to 1-13 victory over the unheralded Westmeath representatives.
Put bluntly, 'Boden needed this test of bottle following their facile five-in-a-row coronation in the capital.
They had won their Dublin quarter-final, semi-final and final by a combined margin of 41 points.
"Oh God, we were fierce lucky to get out of there. I thought Clonkill had us beaten -- they needed a goal to beat us and just didn't get it," Hogan admitted.
"We haven't really been tested," the Ballyboden boss expanded. "You never know what you have -- and the players don't really know what they need to do -- until you're tested properly. We were tested today in no uncertain terms, and Clonkill can consider themselves very unlucky. I thought it was a superb display by them."
This, according to Hogan, was his club's first really searching examination since last year's Leinster semi-final against O'Loughlin Gaels, when they eventually succumbed after extra-time. Now they're through to another semi-final, still chasing that elusive provincial breakthrough.
Oulart-The Ballagh's ambush of Kilkenny's latest standard-bearers, James Stephens, will fan renewed optimism on the Firhouse Road but they'll have to move up several gears to finally conquer Leinster, let alone negotiate a safe route past Coolderry.
This was a mixed performance by the southsiders.
Not that you'd have guessed from the half-time scoreline of 2-7 to 0-6, but Hogan admitted this was not a true reflection of general first-half play.
Two rapid-fire goals -- by Conor McCormack and Simon Lambert -- in the second quarter laid the foundations.
Home and hosed? Anything but. Twice in the last quarter, the 5/1 underdogs edged within a point, the momentum seemingly theirs, but that crucial equaliser never came.
"An almighty battle," surmised Ballyboden's Malachy Travers, who saluted his side's composure and "character" when it mattered most.
SCORERS -- Ballyboden: P Ryan 0-8 (5f, 1 '65), S Lambert, C McCormack 1-1 each, M Travers, D O'Connor 0-1 each. Clonkill: B Murtagh 1-5 (0-1f), A Mitchell (1 '65', 1f), A McGrath (3f) 0-3 each, A Price, A Dowdall 0-1.
BALLYBODEN: G Maguire; S Nagle, D Spain, M O'Sullivan; M Travers, S Nolan, D Curran; D Curtin, S Durkin; J Doody, S Lambert, D O'Connor; P Ryan, C McCormack, E Carroll. Subs: N McMorrow for Doody (39), T Sweeney for Carroll (42), D Sweeney for Nagle (53), P Buckeridge for Curran (59). Yellow: Carroll (6). Wides: 6 (4+2).
CLONKILL: S Nulty; S Cleary, Adam Price, J Fagan; P Dowdall, K Reilly, A Mitchell; E Price, L Folan; A Dowdall, A McGrath, Anthony Price; S Loughlin, B Murtagh, E Loughlin. Subs: C Scally for Anthony Price (inj 39), L Donoghue for Folan (50). Yellow: S Loughlin (9), Folan (28), A Dowdall (48), Mitchell (52), Fagan (61). Wides: 6 (4+2).
Ref: F Smith (Meath).
Man of the match: Malachy Travers (Ballyboden)