Na Fianna book ticket to Dublin football final

Ballyboden St Enda’s swatted aside 1-14 to 0-7


On a weekend overlaid with the sadness of Brian Mullins’ passing, which felt like it enveloped the ground with its flags at half mast during a minute’s silence before the matches at Parnell Park on Saturday evening, Na Fianna powered into the Dublin football final.

They are back in the final for the first time in 17 years and remain on course for the double with the hurlers also in the last four.

A football semi-final that had been seen as a 50-50 call slid alarmingly away from Ballyboden St Enda’s. Trailing by nine at half-time, not even the stiff breeze could blow them back into contention.


Such inroads as they made in the second half were wiped out when David Lacey punished a mercilessly exploited turnover deep into injury-time to float through a desperately retreating defence and slide the ball into an unguarded net.

The former All-Ireland champions were under strength but looked a jaded outfit and although they showed in fits and starts, they were powerless in the face of their opponents’ fast breaking, elusive and accurate forwards.

Na Fianna were sharp in defence and composed in possession and subjected the 2019 champions to death by a thousand cuts in the first half.

The process was almost not metaphorical as the Glasnevin club used their domination of the opposition attack to create a flow of ball into their own forwards, who hit the target with metronomic rhythm.

It took until the fourth minute of injury-time for Boden to score at all, a free from Colm Basquel that took the embarrassingly bare look of the scoreboard, but a 0-1 to 0-10 half-time deficit looked terminally daunting even allowing for a strong wind.

Ballyboden had started with a couple of changes that looked promising. Michael Macauley, formerly Dublin’s centre-field dynamo, lined up in the middle and former underage star James Madden, who is on a close season break from his AFL career with the Brisbane Lions, started in the half-forwards.

Ominously they had both turned over possession within the first two minutes and this turned out to be emblematic of a downbeat afternoon. When Macauley got a run on the defence he slipped and the drive was lost whereas Madden, understandably given the switch of games, hit a couple of extravagant wides.

However, the story of the day was that Na Fianna were very good. Their defence had the intercounty craft of Eoin Murchan, speeding out from the back into open territory, and Jonny Cooper, who held it all together. As a unit they and their colleagues were excellent, intercepting and getting the hand in to disrupt Ballyboden thoroughly.

They also had terrific forwards. Lacey endured a frustrating first half but got his sights better trained after half-time and ended up as top scorer with 1-3. The damage that decided the match was done in the first half, though, and Conor McHugh was outstanding in this period.

He linked up with the mobile and elusive Aaron Byrne to create havoc, combining superbly for the eighth point, by which stage Na Fianna were already so far down the road that even in the 26th minute the contest felt numbed.

Glenn O’Reilly shot a couple, cutting in from the corner on either wing and steadily it all drifted away from Ballyboden. Colm Basquel’s free before the break made it 0-10 to 0-1 and an exceptional start to the second half was required.

It didn’t materialise and the couple of points that were dusted off the deficit didn’t make any lasting difference. Na Fianna took nine minutes to get their first score after the break but the margin had only shrunk to seven, 0-3 to 0-10 before goalkeeper David O’Hanlon kicked a free to accompany his earlier 45.

Ballyboden didn’t get any closer than those seven points and a perfunctory second half rolled out without any prospect of a late run on the scoreboard. Na Fianna will take on the winners of Sunday’s semi-final between Leinster champions Kilmacud Crokes and Thomas Davis.

The afternoon had started with the return of former All-Ireland champions St Vincents to the top flight after an ultimately comfortable win over St Oliver Plunketts Eoghan Rua in the senior 2 semi-final.

On the day after the death of Brian Mullins it was a timely achievement for the club, who had insisted on going ahead with the match in which the Dublin icon’s son, Nathan, played.

If the great man was smiling on his club’s fortunes, he may have been frowning slightly at Nathan’s red card, shown apparently for stamping on the advice of a linesman. It appeared a harsh call as video evidence looked inconclusive.

NA FIANNA: D O’Hanlon (0-2, one free, one 45); G Farrell, E O’Dea, E Murchan; A Fitzgerald (0-1), J Cooper, A Rafter; M Day, P Quinn (0-1); D Quinn, A Byrne, D Lacey (1-3, one free); G O’Reilly (0-2), C McHugh (0-5, one free), B O’Leary.

Subs: S Caffrey for O’Reilly (39 mins), D Kennedy for Farrell (48 mins), Donal Ryan for D Quinn (52 mins), Dean Ryan for Rafter (57 mins).

BALLYBODEN ST ENDA’S: D Gogan; B Bobbett, S Clayton, C Flaherty; J Holland, A Gavin, P Dunleavy; L O’Donoghue, MD Macauley; A Flood (0-1), J Madden, C Basquel (0-2, both frees); R McGarry (0-2), W Egan, D O’Reilly.

Subs: R O’Dwyer (0-1) for O’Reilly (36 mins), R Barnes for Holland (44 mins), C Keaney (0-1) for O’Donoghue (48 mins), D McCabe for Macauley (51 mins), M McDonald for Flood (61 mins).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times