Basquel goal fires Ballyboden to semis
Ballyboden SE 1-8 St Patrick's 0-7
Mother Nature was a venomous old witch yesterday at Drogheda's Gaelic Grounds in sharp contrast to her largely benign modus operandi of recent weeks.
Heavy rain showers on an already softened pitch, and a strong swirling wind, made gaining a foothold on the greasy surface and retaining hands on the football a lottery for the players of Ballyboden St Enda's and Louth champions St Patrick's.
But when the final whistle blew, the Dubs had done enough to edge their way through a seriously challenging contest.
Ballyboden St Enda's, Dublin champions for the third time and winning their first senior county title since 2009 by defeating St Vincent's last Sunday week, now face St Loman's of Mullingar in the provincial semi-final on Sunday week.
They coped well with the squalls of rain and also weathered the storm of intensity which St Patrick's brought to the occasion in a bid to break a Leinster championship hoodoo.
Three times in the last four years the Saints, the club of former Louth stalwart Paddy Keenan, have proven to be the top dogs in the Wee County.
On the bigger stage of provincial fare they have fallen short, and Keenan and co were highly motivated.
It was always going to be a difficult encounter for Ballyboden, as manager Andy McEntee readily acknowledged after the game.
His side have already been made second favourites to win the All-Ireland title and that's not a concept that McEntee wished to entertain at this first hurdle in Leinster.
"Anybody who knows their football wouldn't think we are going to come to Drogheda and walk over St Pat's.
"Nothing here came as a surprise. We were expecting a really tough test and we got a really tough test," he said.
That was evident in the bright start the home side made to the match, registering three points - albeit hard-earned - in the first 11 minutes.
Karl White got two, one from a free, and Keenan had the power and accuracy to score a finely judged point from 40 metres.
Dual player and current county hurler Conal Keaney eased Ballyboden's concerns when he fired over their first point after 15 minutes.
Andrew Kerin's brace, one from a free, brought Ballyboden level at 0-3 each in the 26th minute.
In time added on, St Patrick's Daniel O'Connor produced a superb score from over 35 metres and out on the wing to give the home side the interval lead at 0-4 to 0-3.
It was not enough, in Paddy Keenan's opinion.
"There was a strong breeze there, we went in at half-time a point ahead, and if we'd taken our chances we probably would have been a few more ahead," he said.
The paucity of scores reflected the level of intensity and the battle to cope with the conditions for the two teams.
Keenan and big Eoin O'Connor were strong in midfield for St Pat's.
They gave centre-field opponents Michael Darragh Macauley and Declan O'Mahoney a run for their money.
On the Dubliners' side, former county hurling captain Stephen Hiney was immense at full-back, and Conal Keaney only got some space to do damage late in the match - but his two closing points from long range were spectacular and vital.
Referee Pat Maguire did well in the first half to catch some of the off-the-ball squaring up and shoving and mouth off at each other that was going on at times.
The ref eventually showed three yellow cards to St Pat's players in the second half.
He also sent St Patrick's manager Jim Holland to the stand in the 50th minute, following what appeared to be a strong verbal contribution by the team boss.
By then, the score was 1-4 to 0-5 in favour of Ballyboden - and that goal was to prove crucial.
A Kerin point from a free in the 34th minute was an equaliser at 0-4 each.
A minute later Ballyboden's Darren O'Reilly had shot wide, but from the kick-out, he was quick to nip in and challenge St Patrick's Pat Kirk for possession.
The turnover set O'Reilly on his way towards goal, and he drew a couple of defenders before passing for Colm Basquel to smash the ball into the net.
Over the next 25 minutes plus injury-time Keenan tacked on three points, all from frees.
He did get the ball in the net from a free late in the match, but it was disallowed because the ref was dealing with a St Pat's substitution.
Kerin (two frees) and Keaney's spectacular closing brace were enough to see Ballyboden into the semi-finals.
Scorers - Ballyboden St Endas: A Kerin 0-5 (4f); C Basquel 1-0; C Keaney 0-3. St Patrick's: P Keenan 0-4 (3f); K White 0-2 (1f); D O'Connor 0-1.
Ballyboden St Endas - C Dooley; B Dwan, S Hiney, S Clayton; S O'Connor, D Nelson, A Waters; MD Macauley, D O'Mahoney; S Gibbons, C Basquel, D O'Reilly; C Keaney, S Molony, A Kerin.
Subs: D McCabe for D O'Mahoney (h.t); R McDaid for S O'Connor (38); D Davy for S Gibbons (46); C McCormack for S Molony (49); S Durkin for D O'Reilly (54).
St Patrick's - S Connor; K Toner, P Kirk, D O'Connor; O Zambouglou, E Lafferty, E Breen; P Keenan, E O'Connor; D O'Connor, K White, A McCann; D Lafferty, C Grogan, D Finnegan.
Subs: R Murphy for O Zambouglou (54); A O'Connor for D Lafferty (59).
Ref - P Maguire (Longford).