Dublin SHC semi-final: Ballyboden SE 1-15 Na Fianna 0-12
Joe Fortune could hear laughing from the stand as his Ballyboden St Enda's team crashed to a 14-point defeat against Kilmacud back in July.
A case of Boden having the last laugh in two weeks' time? Don't rule it out, after the battle-hardened warriors of the Firhouse Road fought their way to a six-point victory over Na Fianna in the second Dublin SHC 'A' semi-final at Parnell Park yesterday evening.
They had to do it the hard way, having trailed by four points heading into first half injury-time, and again by three ten minutes after the restart.
Ultimately, though, those familiar Ballyboden characteristics - experience, defensive doggedness, a more clinical streak when it mattered most - saw them leapfrog their young rivals and set up a final date with the holders from Cuala.
This contest wasn't even the third cousin of a classic - no matter. For as Fortune remarked afterwards: "I remember at one stage Dalo (Anthony Daly) saying to me, 'There's no good way to win a semi-final, you just have to win it.' And we've done that."
Paul Ryan's 57th minute penalty killed off any flickering Na Fianna dreams of a first ever county final appearance. In truth, their inside forwards had already been squeezed to the periphery by the Boden backs, James Madden setting a suffocating benchmark in his man-marking duel with fellow Dub Donal Burke.
It was all a far cry from their opening round-robin misadventure, when that same defence leaked four goals to Crokes.
"People saw where we were at that stage," said Fortune. His full-back line were "torn apart that day" and he even revealed that "people laughed in the stand at stages maybe during that Kilmacud game."
Did he hear them? "I think everybody heard them, to be honest."
The Boden boss credited his backroom team for the transformation since then, pinpointing "a lot of work" put into the defence and the team in general.
"On day one very little gave us a chance of getting back," he added. "But look at the task we have now. It doesn't get any easier - Willie Maher has Cuala flying."
Here, initially at least, Na Fianna were flying, Burke's audacious opening point from the left flank followed by a brace of Colin Currie frees as they raced three clear inside four minutes. It was the club's first appearance in a senior hurling semi-final since 1988, but stage fright was not an issue.
And yet, even as they struggled for forward fluency, Boden dragged themselves into contention, aided by eye-catching points from defenders Simon Lambert and David O'Connor.
They were level at the first water break, but then Na Fianna reasserted control and hit 0-4 on the spin - a Seán Currie brace from distance sandwiching two frees from his brother Colin.
Ryan's deadball brace left the southsiders trailing by 0-8 to 0-6 at the break; the Dublin sharpshooter added another soon after.
There followed Na Fianna's last spell of supremacy. AJ Murphy and the increasingly influential Shane Barrett restored a three-point cushion.
Then, after Paddy Dunleavy's riposte, Barrett embarked on an epic 38th minute run from wing-back, was hooked but regained possession and pulled the trigger from 25 metres. His angled shot was destined for the top corner until Finn McGarry's flying intervention. A turning point? Perhaps, even if a free-in was whistled back and Colin Currie converted.
From three up, Na Fianna would only muster one more converted free (from Burke) whereas Ballyboden added 1-7.
The influence of Madden, Lambert, Conal Keaney and Ryan grew more pronounced, and a foul on sub Pearse Christie (after an incisive Luke McDwyer run) drew the penalty which Ryan dispatched.
Na Fianna defender Conor Kelly picked up a second yellow, and Colin Currie spurned a late goal chance. Story of their day.
"I went out here three years ago," Fortune mused, "and people thought I was mad - 'they were finished' and 'they were done.' And then we won in '18 ... and now they're back in a county final again. I can't question the character that's there."
SCORERS - BALLYBODEN ST ENDA'S: P Ryan 1-8 (1-0pen, 7f), S Lambert, P Doherty 0-2 each, D O'Connor, P Dunleavy, K Desmond 0-1 each. NA FIANNA: C Currie 0-6f, D Burke (1f), S Currie (1f) 0-2 each, AJ Murphy, S Barrett 0-1 each.
BALLYBODEN ST ENDA'S: F McGarry; J Madden, L Corcoran, S O'Connor; D O'Connor, P Dunleavy, S Lambert; N McMorrow, S McDonnell; C Dooley, N Ryan, C Keaney; P Ryan, P Doherty, A Mellett. Subs: P Christie for Mellett (ht), C McCormack for N Ryan (40), L McDwyer for Dooley (51), S Hiney for Dunleavy (56), K Desmond for P Ryan (inj 58).
NA FIANNA: J Treacy; C Kelly, P O'Dea, K Burke; C McHugh, S Baxter, S Barrett; F Breathnach, M Quilty; S Currie, E McHugh, AJ Murphy; C Currie, S Ryan, D Burke. Subs: S Burke for Quilty (15), M Murphy for O'Dea (inj 46), S Murphy for Ryan (52), K Murphy for E McHugh (58).
REF: PJ Murray (St Finian's Swords).