Ten years after Garrycastle ambush, wary Ballyboden are on a Mullingar mission

Flashback: Garrycastle’s Mark McCallon turns to celebrate with Patrick Mulvhill (right), after scoring a goal in their famous victory over Ballyboden in the 2009 Leinster club SFC. Photo: Sportsfile

Frank Roche

The bookies are never wrong, so the mantra goes. On the second last Sunday of November, 2009, they were. Badly.

Ballyboden St Enda's were 4/11 favourites to win their AIB Leinster club senior football semi-final against Garrycastle ... and never really came close.

They are even shorter odds at 2/7 this Sunday, when the same rivals mark the tenth anniversary of their last meeting.

Same competition, same round, same Mullingar venue - but will it be Groundhog Day or glorious revenge for 'Boden?

On the surface, the logic of their favouritism in '09 was unerring. The last two Dublin champions, St Vincent's and Kilmacud, had gone the All-Ireland distance.

The previous month, Ballyboden had toppled Crokes after a three-game semi-final epic. Meanwhile, no Westmeath club had ever won Leinster. Even at home, what hope had Garrycastle?

Plenty, in fact. Ballyboden were double Dublin champions - a blessing but also a curse. Whereas Stephen Hiney wasn't long back from injury, there had been no let-up for Shane Durkin, Simon Lambert and Conal Keaney, zigzagging from football to hurling and back again for months.

This was 'Boden's ninth SFC tie in under 14 weeks (from August 18 to November 22); they had squeezed eight SHC fixtures into the same window.

Seventeen games - and Keaney especially had been instrumental in most of them. Something had to give.

A week earlier, the hurlers' third Leinster quest in as many years had been buried by a Ballyhale goal blitz. Now their football boss, Liam O'Dwyer, was juggling without two central pillars - skipper Declan O'Mahony, suspended after his red card against Rathnew, and vice-captain Kenny Naughton, out with a shoulder injury.

Then, as match-day approached, Keaney succumbed to a 'flu virus that left him drained of all energy.

"We got the news just before we went out - they had lost Conal and Kenny Naughton," recalls Cathal Mullin, Garrycastle's 'keeper on the day. "So, that gave us a little bit of a lift."


Lambert had come off a summer hurling for Anthony Daly's Dublin before embarking on that marathon odyssey.

"We weren't doing a whole lot of training, especially me, Stephen, Shane and Conal," he says. "You get a week or ten days, at the end of summer, then you're straight back into the club and it was non-stop.

"At the same time, when you're playing matches and it's week on, week on, you don't (really mind). There's an element that it's catching up on you when you're near the end of the season … inevitably there's going to be fatigue. Mentally, you'd be tired as well.

"It was a long season, but it was a great year for the club, winning the double. I don't think it's been done since."

On a wind-blighted day, it all ended in deflating 1-8 to 0-6 defeat. Garrycastle played masterfully into the second-half elements, with Mark McCallon's goal proving the killer blow for 'Boden.

Keaney hauled himself off the bench and converted a '45 during a late 12-minute cameo; but by then they were playing a forlorn game of catch-up.

Six years would pass before the 'Boden footballers conquered Dublin again - and it ended in All-Ireland coronation, Lambert coming off the bench to join Keaney and Durkin for the club's finest hour.

Garrycastle ambushed another Dublin standard-bearer, St Brigid's, in 2011 but would suffer All-Ireland replay heartache to Crossmaglen.

Lambert has concentrated on hurling this year while the Donabate-based Mullin retired several years ago. Both men will be in TEG Cusack Park this Sunday as fans. "I've the car full already," says Lambert. "If they can get out of there with any sort of a point or two-point victory, it will be huge."

Mullin says Garrycastle are never "overly fearful" of Dublin champions, adding: "This is our fifth semi-final out of five attempts since '09, so we've a very good record. That's become the benchmark for us ... hopefully Sunday is another good day on that front."