Dublin SFC Group 3: Ballyboden St Enda's 4-20 Clontarf 2-8
Jack McCaffrey's next big adventure, as a leader of Clontarf minus the addendum of Sky Blue swashbuckler, could not have started more buoyantly.
Within 30 seconds his club were a goal up on the champions. Less than a third into the contest, they led Ballyboden St Enda's by two clear goals.
At which point you are probably booking an optician's appointment. Is that final scoreline - an 18-point 'landslide' for the hosts - a mirage or a misprint?
More a case of reality bites for a Clontarf team which - already shy three key men, Andy Foley, Declan Monaghan and Kieran McKeon - were running on empty through a harrowing fourth quarter at Páirc Uí Mhurchú on Saturday evening.
When Nathan Doran converted a 44th-minute free, their deficit was still a retrievable two points. They wouldn't score again, whereas Boden turned the screw to the tune of an unanswered 3-7.
McCaffrey's frustration near the end was encapsulated by two cameos. In the first, he was victim of a bone-crunching 'sandwich'. No card; perhaps the referee couldn't decide who was more to blame. And no sympathy, either, from goalkeeper Darragh Gogan, diving low to deny the marauding McCaffrey a late goal.
Then, rubbing injury-time salt into open wounds, Warren Egan neatly finished his second goal via an upright and sub Simon Lambert added another.
The latter was released by Colm Basquel, happy to turn creator having already plundered 1-10, 0-5 from play.
"It was a small bit of a worry when we went six points down," admitted winning boss Anthony Rainbow. "But there's huge grit and determination in this team and they're fighters."
Even though, to begin with, there was more fright than fight in the holders. They were, in the vending vernacular, all over the shop. The tills had barely opened when Kevin Lillis raced in from the right corner to roof a brilliant goal.
Lillis followed up with a free and then, after Ross McGarry's retort, the slippery No 13 added a point that could easily have been a goal, clipping the bar en route.
Chris Barrett, of Mayo All Star fame, was settling seamlessly at centre-back on his 'Tarf debut. McCaffrey was probing productively on the '40', and his assist teed up Lillis for his second goal.
That left a six-point daylight between the teams - although, in fairness, 'Boden had already shown signs of emerging from post-lockdown slumber. Conal Keaney, looking far too lean and mean for a veteran allegedly turning 38 in September, kept 'Boden on early life support with three trademark points, finding pockets of space on the right to swing over with his trusty ciotóg.
"Defensively we were all over the place," Rainbow conceded. He thought the water-break helped to "kill their momentum" and allow his team to refocus - albeit that second Lillis goal came afterwards.
The key score came next. 'Boden intercepted a Barrett pass into midfield; Darragh Nelson and Darren O'Reilly linked and Egan's thunderbolt finish would have left Marty Morrissey waxing "take it out!" if only the RTÉ cameras were there.
With Michael Darragh Macauley now getting into his leg-pumping groove and the midfield battle turning, 'Boden were level at the break, 1-9 to 2-6. The second half opened with McGarry revealing the razor-sharpness and accuracy that had now deserted Clontarf. Then the younger Basquel took on the baton of punisher-in-chief. His 53rd-minute penalty, awarded after McCaffrey was deemed to have fouled Keaney, stretched the gap to eight. At which point the visitors simply craved an early whistle.
"It's disappointing the way it finished to be honest, I don't think we were that far behind them," said their debutant, Barrett. "I think everybody is just happy to be out playing a bit of football."
SCORERS - Ballyboden: C Basquel 1-10 (1-0 pen, 5f), W Egan 2-0, C Keaney (1f), R McGarry 0-4 each, S Lambert 1-0, D O'Mahoney, T Hayes 0-1 each. Clontarf: K Lillis 2-4 (2f), N Doran 0-2 (1f), F Dodd, M Walshe 0-1 each.
BALLYBODEN: D Gogan; C Flaherty, S Clayton, K Kennedy; J Holland, R McDaid, D Nelson; MD Macauley, D O'Mahoney; W Egan, C Basquel, D O'Reilly; C Keaney, R Basquel, R McGarry. Subs: A Flood for O'Reilly (43), D McCabe for O'Mahoney (52), T Hayes for R Basquel (52), B Bobbett for Holland (52), S Lambert for Keaney (56).
CLONTARF: R O'Hanlon; L Howley, C Doran, F O'Byrne; S Walsh, C Barrett, C Cronin; N Doran, M Walshe; S O'Quigley, J McCaffrey, F Dodd; K Lillis, M McDonnacha, B Berney. Subs: T O'Flaherty for McDonnacha (43), J McDonagh for Dodd (43), P Mohan for Cronin (58), C McConnell for Berney (58), C Kyne for O'Quigley (58).
REF: D Stynes (St Peregrine's).