HAD Andy McEntee been afforded the advantage of scripting how today’s All-Ireland club final would go, he mightn’t have had the gall to pen such a perfect day for his Ballyboden St Enda’s team.
A 13 point win (2-14 to 0-7) built on the foundations of a spectacular opening meant they had the luxury of cruising to the full-time whistle, despite their pre-match outsiders tag.
Heavily backed, Castlebar flopped.
Two years after they gave Diarmuid Connolly the freedom of Croke Park in their last and similarly unsuccessful All-Ireland club final appearance, they were stunned here by an early blitz from Ballyboden and enjoyed no real period of productivity.
Recent history of Mayo teams in All-Ireland finals is pretty bleak and this loss was very much in keeping with the theme. It also meant that the losing club All-Ireland finalists at junior, intermediate and senior level this year come from Mayo.
Ballyboden, meanwhile, will begin the defence of their Dublin SFC title as fourth favorites with most bookies, such was their lowly billing but today, they put on a masterclass, tactically and in terms of execution.
There were three changes to the named Ballyboden team, including the removal of Declan O’Mahony, whose suspension was upheld by the DRA on Tuesday evening.
His absence wasn’t felt. By the end of the match, ‘Boden were without Michael Darragh Macauley as well as he succumbed to a leg injury but that didn’t matter either.
The shorthand of the changes was that ‘Boden started with more pace in their ranks. Aran Waters, notably, moved into O’Mahony’s usual midfield spot and speed through Castlebar a couple of times early on at his leisure.
Just two minutes in, Colm Basquel zoomed past Stephen O’Connor on the right flank of Ballyboden attack and classily slotted a goal. His brother Ryan – who started his first match since suffering a broken jaw in last year’s Dublin SFC final – kicked the third of a succession of points to put the outsiders 1-3 to no score up.
After just 15 minutes, Waters again breached the line and was hauled down by Eoghan O’Reilly and Andrew Kerin stitched the penalty to make it 2-3 to zip.
For context, Castlebar – the team that felled the last two All-Ireland champions - hadn’t conceded a goal since the Mayo SFC semi-final last October.
At this very stage, Castlebar were a mess. It took them 20 minutes to score and another eight – just two minutes shy of half-time – to register from play.
They also peppered a series of bad wides and in their ploy to drop named full-forward, Richie Feeney, deep to influence play, his man-marker, Bob Dwan, had a much more pronounced influence, kicking 0-3 himself and collecting the official TG4 Man of the Match award.
Ballyboden’s half-time lead (2-5 to 0-3) was such that Castlebar would have had to mimic ‘Boden’s beginning at the start of the second half but they didn’t even score until 15 minutes.
Indeed, had the Firhouse team been only slightly more clinical, they might have had a couple more goals but on a day when Shane Clayton, Dwane and Colm Basquel produced exceptional performances, ‘Boden could afford to run their bench and bask in the glory of a perfect St Patrick’s Day.
SCORERS – Ballyboden St Enda’s: A Kerin 1-2 (1-0 pen), C Basquel 1-1, B Dwane 0-3, S Durkin, R Basquel 0-2 each, MD Macauley, S O’Connor, D O’Reilly, C Keaney 0-1 each. Castlebar Mitchels: N Douglas (1 ’45), J Durcan (1f) 0-2 each, P Durcan, N Lydon, A Walsh (f) 0-1 each.
BALLYBODEN: P Durcan; S Clayton; S Hiney, B Dwan; S O’Connor, D Nelson, S Durkin; A Waters, MD Macauley; D O’Reilly, C Basquel, R McDaid; R Basquel, C Keaney, A Kerin. Subs: S Lambert for Macauley (35), S Malony for R Basquel (60), D Davey for O’Reilly (60), D McCabe for Waters (61), S Gibbons for McDaid (63)
CASTLEBAR: R Byrne; T Cunniffe, A Feeney, D Newcome; P Durcan, E O’Reilly, R O’Malley; G McDonagh, B Moran; S Hopkins, N Lydon, N Douglas; S Keane, D Kirby, R Feeney. Subs: F Durcan for Hopkins (24), C Costello for Keane (37), J Durcan for R Feeney (37), A Walsh for Douglas (41), S Conlon for O’Malley (46)
REF: C Lane (Cork)
The Dublin v Mayo football rivalry continues at club level in Croke Park at 4pm when Ballyboden St Endas and Castlebar Mitchels meet in the All Ireland club football final. Follow all the action here.