Wednesday 21 March 2018

Keaney stands and delivers to get Ballyboden over line

Ballyboden 0-13 Lucan sars 0-10

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

When the occasion demanded it, Conal Keaney once more showed the leadership he is renowned for to usher Ballyboden St Enda's back to the pinnacle of his county's club game at Parnell Park.

When the occasion demanded it, Conal Keaney once more showed the leadership he is renowned for to usher Ballyboden St Enda's back to the pinnacle of his county's club game at Parnell Park.

It hadn't been his finest performance, as first-time finalists Lucan Sarsfields made life difficult for Dublin's blue-chip hurling team in a tremendous battle that bookmakers, offering 6/1 on an upset, clearly hadn't seen coming.

And when Kevin O'Reilly, a sensation for Lucan after being left out of recent games, pegged over a magnificent point after a scintillating gallop down the left flank to reduce the gap to the minimum (0-9 to 0-8) around the 42nd minute mark, the crowd sensed that something really special could be on the cards.

However, that's when Keaney rolled up his sleeves and got down to work, easing over a point almost from the puck-out and then winning a free for Paul Ryan to put three points in it again.

Lucan did hit back with an impressive long-range point from their own leader in the trenches, Johnny McCaffrey, from quite some distance.


They might have gained more initiative when Ballyboden's Maurice Nagle was sent off for a wild pull that earned a second yellow card, but that's when Keaney stepped it up again to fetch a puck-out and change direction with a pass to David Curtin, who made it 0-12 to 0-9 and keep the hungry challengers at arm's length.

It was a very promising maiden final appearance for Lucan, who have so much youth on their side and it was only the experience and physical strength of Ballyboden's seasoned players that told in the end.

Ball after ball was rammed down the throats of the Ballyboden full-back line, who exerted that physical superiority over their lighter opponents almost every time.

Behind them goalkeeper Gary Maguire was the epitome of security, especially in the closing quarter.

Stephen Hiney and Shane Durkin dominated across the half-back line and prospective young Dublin hurlers Chris Crummy and Sean McClelland really didn't lay a glove on them.

With Conor Robinson – singled out as man of the match by his manager Johnny Kenny afterwards – also excelling, Ballyboden had a hold on this line that Lucan really couldn't deal with.

Tullamore man and former Laois boss Damien Fox, in his second year as Lucan manager, accepted that a dearth of physical strength and experience played a big part in their downfall. "This time of year suits them a bit better than maybe two or three months ago," he said.

"If the ground was a bit harder we might have been able to move it around more. They were physically stronger all over the field. They're a seasoned side. They've been around a good few years, they knew how to get the scores."

O'Reilly, a prolific scorer with Dublin in the past, was a revelation for Lucan, popping over three points from play in the first 20 minutes as the sides were level five times.

Ballyboden, with Niall McMorrow anchoring them impressively from midfield, made an important surge coming up to the interval however, with points from Stephen O'Connor, McMorrow and Ryan after Durkin was fouled for a 0-8 to 0-5 lead.

That gap was closed to 0-8 to 0-7 at one stage after the restart through O'Reilly and Tommy Somers frees, but Ballyboden always seemed to have too much and the ability to respond at the right time.

Kenny admitted afterwards that Nagle's dismissal sowed doubts in their mind. "When we went a man down it was going from us, but the lads seemed to step it up an extra gear and we saw out the last 10 minutes," he acknowledged.

"Lads knew how to dig it out and get the crucial scores at the crucial times. We didn't think (a three-point interval lead) would be enough, the wind seemed to have picked up a little bit. We were struggling in some key positions in the forwards.

"We thought we'd need a goal to see it out, but obviously it didn't turn out that way. It was a dog-eat-dog battle out there in the middle of the field."

On Nagle's dismissal Kenny said it was good fortune that referee James 'Shiner' Brennan, the former Kilkenny and Dublin hurler, did not show a straight red which would have forced him out of key provincial club games.

"I thought he was lucky he didn't get a straight red. He got a yellow so he's available for next weekend. He was on a yellow already, but he definitely pulled across him so he deserved to go."

After their brief sabbatical in 2012, when Kilmacud Crokes took their place, Ballyboden can look forward to a Leinster campaign that has them on the softer side of the draw.

But as Dublin champions for five successive years between 2007 and 2011, their record in Leinster has been poor and that is something they are now desperate to address.

Scorers – Ballyboden St Enda's: P Ryan 0-6 (5fs), C Keaney, N McMorrow 0-2 each, S O'Connor, S Durkin, D Curtin 0-1 each. Lucan Sarsfields: K O'Reilly 0-7 (3fs), T Somers 0-2 (2fs), J McCaffrey 0-1.

Ballyboden St Enda's – G Maguire; M Travers, D Curran, S O'Connor; C Robinson, S Hiney, S Durkin; P Buckeridge, N McMorrow; C Keaney, D Curtin, M Nagle; F McGarry, C McCormack, P Ryan. Subs: D Sweeney for Buckeridge (43), G Corrigan for McCormack (58).

Lucan Sarsfields – D Quinn; J Bellew, P Kelly, M McCaffrey; B Aird, R Lamberrt, T Somers; J McCaffrey, J Byrne; T Lee, C Crummy, S McLelland; K O'Reilly, K Fitzgerald, A Roche. Subs: M May for Byrne (27), E O Conghaile for McClelland (53), C Dooley for Bellew (54).

Ref – J Brennan (Thomas Davis)

Irish Independent

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