Thomas Davis' fairytale runs falls short as ruthless Ballyboden power to Dublin title
Ballyboden St Enda's 0-15 Thomas Davis 0-09
WITH over 100 teams across the different codes, Ballyboden St Enda’s have been described as Europe’s largest sporting club - but huge playing numbers haven’t always translated into county football glory.
So, there was no sense of routine mission accomplished as their players, management and fans mingled on the Parnell Park pitch yesterday evening, soaking up the undiluted joy of just a fourth Dublin SFC title.
"It’s great, a brilliant feeling," said manager Anthony Rainbow, formerly of Kildare fame. "Any championship you win is an incredible feeling but to do it with this bunch of players ... we’ve been through a lot over the last two years in terms of training and getting guys right and it’s been an incredible journey for me and the players."
However, their journey back to the Dublin summit required less of a leap of faith than the one that might have completed a Thomas Davis fairytale.
After all, it’s only three-and-a-half years since ‘Boden were staring down from the Hogan Stand podium as All-Ireland champions. And for four of their ranks - Darragh Nelson, Michael Darragh Macauley, Declan O’Mahony and late sub Conal Keaney - yesterday delivered a third county football medal.
Thomas Davis provided all the romance here, having qualified for their first final in 28 years, but a more battle-hardened ‘Boden were too streetwise. They had flirted with disaster against Na Fianna and St Jude’s, showing commendable survival instincts before delivering the killer blows late on.
Here there was no such requirement.
As Thomas Davis manager Paul Kelly admitted: "We were looking for that goal that we’ve been getting in the last few weeks – it just wasn’t coming. And ultimately we were never going to pare back that lead without getting a goal."
Experience apart, Ballyboden also enjoyed a discernible edge in power and physicality; Davis tackled with ferocity from the first bell but they couldn’t sustain it over the full hour, while Rainbow’s middle-eight men turned the screw on the opposition kick-out during the second half.
And even though it took them over 50 minutes to finally kill off the Tallaght challenge, their forward pedigree ultimately proved a game-clincher.
For once, Collie Basquel wasn’t the Boden assassin-in-chief: he had to settle for a prosaic 0-3 (one from play) although he finished the game strongly.
But that was still more than sufficient on a day when his older brother, Ryan, top-scored with 0-6 (half of that from play) while Dublin U20 star Ross McGarry announced his credentials as a potential senior-in-the-making.
McGarry shot one point before the break in a poor-quality first half that finished with the favourites firmly in pole position, leading 0-7 to 0-2.
And even though an Eoin Kirby free and Shane McGrath’s sweet execution from the right wing cut the deficit to three, McGarry then came into his own, adding a further 0-3 and assisting Alan Flood for an injury-time point as Boden eased to a six-point victory.
By then, Macauley had departed with a suspected concussion. But he was on the pitch afterwards, sharing in the moment, and Rainbow is hopeful that the Dublin midfielder will be passed fit for their Leinster club SFC quarter-final against Newtown Blues in the Gaelic Grounds, Drogheda, this Sunday. "He’s still a bit dazed now," his manager said, "but he should be okay hopefully."
The match itself bordered between dazed and confused, especially the first half. Thomas Davis got plenty of men behind the ball and sought to punish on the counter, but retaining possession for long enough proved problematic.
They weren’t helped by the early loss of the manager’s son, Oisin Kelly, who had been detailed to shadow Macauley until his hamstring betrayed him.
It might have been a different story if Ciaran Farrelly, after a soaring goalmouth catch, had managed to pull the trigger in the 11th minute. But his effort was blocked and, almost immediately, Boden countered only for Warren Egan’s goal attempt to clip the bar.
By the end of the first quarter, St Enda’s had only managed one point from play (via O’Mahony) but still led by 0-4 to 0-0. A Ryan Deegan free and David Keogh kickstarted a fitful comeback ... but when another short kickout put Davis on the back foot, Collie Basquel almost pilfered a goal from the resultant throw ball, only to be denied by Robbie Crilly’s smart save.
In truth, for this game to ignite, it needed a goal - for Davis, not a Boden team who were always in the box seat.