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Boden at Enda road as Fianna march to final

NA FIANNA 0-15; BALLYBODEN ST ENDA'S 2-8

Na Fianna produced an exceptional team display to deservedly account for Ballyboden St Enda's in their entertaining Dublin U21 'A' Football Championship semi-final at Páirc Uí Mhurchú on Saturday afternoon.

The final scoreline may suggest otherwise, but the visitors dominated for large chunks with Alan Flood's goal deep into injury time arriving too late to prevent the holders confirming their final berth.

That St Enda's managed to remain in contention, despite being generally eclipsed at midfield was testimony to their battling qualities but the hosts were left to rue a sloppy second quarter in which their opponents opened up a sizeable lead.

The foundation for Na Fianna's victory was based around an imperious central quartet of centre-back Niall McGovern, JJ Martin and Carl O'Connor at midfield and the industrious Fergal Breathnach at centre-forward who provided a wealth of possession for a lively forward division.

Their attacking options were further enhanced after the break with the introduction of Conor McHugh with the Dublin minor producing a telling cameo that included three sumptuous points from play.

McHugh was joined from the bench by his All-Ireland-winning team-mate Emile Mullan, highlighting the strength in depth at manager 'Pilllar' Caffrey's disposal.

Na Fianna opened the scoring through a tidy fourth-minute point from Neil Flannery but wing-back Stephen O'Connor's surging run was rewarded with an excellent score soon after to restore parity.

Tellingly, that proved Boden's solitary score from open play in the first-half with Martin and O'Connor showing early signs of their dominance in the aerial exchanges with a series of clean catches.

When they failed to gain primary possession, the likes of McGovern, Lee Bird and Breathnach worked tirelessly for breaking ball and from a driving run in the seventh minute Martin was denied by a sharp save from 'Boden netminder Conor Dooley.

A free from Collie Dunne saw St Enda's lead briefly but successive scores from Adam Caffrey and Breathnach restored Na Fianna's advantage by the end of the first quarter. It was one-way traffic until the end of the half with Bird availing of superb vision from Caffrey to kick a cracking point in the 21st minute and the influential McGovern picked out Eoghan Neville's run to perfection as 'Boden struggled to contain Na Fianna.

Trailing by 0-8 to 0-3 at the interval, the hosts would not have welcomed the arrival of Na Fianna's talented two additions and within two minutes of the restart McHugh extended his side's lead following an inviting pass from O'Connor.

From nowhere, 'Boden mounted a comeback, kick-started by a superb O'Connor score and after Ryan Basquel added a free, the full-forward's quick thinking was rewarded as his quick free released substitute Ronan Cleary for a cool finish beyond Conor McCarville.

McHugh seized control of affairs from that point, winning a brace of frees that he converted in addition to kicking two glorious points from play to re-establish his side's control after a shaky five-minute spell.

Basquel, Sam Molony and Cleary replied for the hosts but Bird and Flannery ensured 'Boden remained at arm's length with Flood's late strike unable to alter the result.


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