Ballyboden stave off apocalypse to take second Leinster title

Dublin champions leave it late to overcome gallant Éire Óg in awful weather

Ballyboden St Enda’s (Dublin) 0-8 Éire Óg (Carlow) 0-6

A disappointed Éire Óg manager Joe Murphy said afterwards: "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger". Well, just about. The rain beat down on MW Hire O'Moore Park, for Sunday's AIB Leinster club football final, turning Portlaoise into an approximation of some biblical town that had done the Creator a great disrespect.

It was questioned afterwards whether the pitch was playable but needs must even if what played out didn’t really do justice to either team. Level at half-time and separated by no more than a point throughout the second half until the winners’ late burst, the sides spent the afternoon probing – Ballyboden with their possession-based game and Éire Óg breaking from the back – to little effect.

In the end – literally – the Dublin champions, overwhelming favourites, managed to reel off the last three points in as many minutes to turn a perilous looking one-point deficit in the 55th minute into what was by the standards of the day, a luxurious victory for their second provincial title, four years after the first.

In seasonal terms their goose had looked cooked after Seán Gannon capped a good display with his second point. During the ensuing few minutes, Ballyboden held possession and tossed it around in an endgame where the boundary between cold-nerved patience and aimlessness was hard to locate.

It was left to replacement Warren Egan to take on the task in the last minute with an ambitious kick. Once level, Ballyboden were liberated and pillaged the kickouts. Ryan Basquel kicked another fine point to lead and the coup de grace was added by Dublin's Michael Macauley who galloped in on goal to fist the final point.

"You have to give a lot of credit to Warren Egan," said winning manager Anthony Rainbow afterwards. "He missed one when he came on and had the balls to step up and kick it over the bar the second time. We had that sort of fighter finish in the last five minutes.

“We pressed their kickouts – lost one but won it back again and won the other two. That doesn’t just happen on the day. That’s down to training and what we do during the year and what we did last year as well because we have evolved that game plan.”

For most of the final though it was the Carlow club, a fresh generation stepping up to the sizeable tradition that saw five Leinster titles won in the 1990s, who made the running.

Their deep defence and energetic counter-attacks had created a lightning fork in the 11th minute to transform a scoreless match – in which it was already obvious that even points would be at a premium – into a 0-3 to nil lead.

Ballyboden had enjoyed much of the early possession but had difficulty tearing open the blanket sufficiently to create opportunities. Then within 60 seconds, Ross Dunphy kicked a point, the Dubliners got into bother on their restarts and Seán Gannon and Chris Blake added others in quick succession.

Éire Óg were playing with a strong (in other words, felt like off the Beaufort scale) wind and the favourites looked in trouble.

But another 11 minutes passed before further scores. Ballyboden had the best goal chance of the afternoon but Ricky Keating saved well from Colm Basquel and the rebound resulted in a free out. For Basquel and his brother Ryan as well as Dublin under-20 Ross McGarry the conditions were especially trying.

Attempts to sashay through the defence were met by sturdy resistance in both the numbers of opponents standing between them and the goal, an aggressive defence that succeeded in pushing Boden out to the wings, and also the pitch, which made hopping the ball a feat beyond humankind.

It was to the credit of the favourites that they adjusted and hacked out an equalising three points before the break.

Goalkeeper Darragh Gogan dropped a 45 short and Colm Basquel was quickest to the break and fired over the first and then in the minutes before half-time, veteran Conal Keaney decisively finished one of those moves that looked like petering out. Finally Ryan Basquel pointed a free with the opposition support convinced that it had gone wide.

Éire Óg manager Joe Murphy said that he hadn’t felt parity was a bad outcome at half-time even allowing for the wind.

“I don’t think the wind was a feature in the game, it wasn’t benefiting either team in either half. The game was so tight and both defences were really organised and really on top of their opposing forwards for large portions.”

Newly crowned Leinster football champions Ballyboden St Enda's will now play Ulster counterparts Kilcoo, from Down, in the All-Ireland club semi-finals. Calendar changes mean that the matches will be played in early January with the finals on 19th of the month.

Ballyboden St Enda's: D Grogan; B Dwan, S Clayton, C Flaherty; K Kennedy, R McDaid, B Bobbett; D McCabe, D O'Mahony; A Flood, R Basquel (0-2, one free), D O'Reilly; R McGarry, C Basquel (0-2), C Keaney (0-2). Subs: MD Macauley (0-1) for McCabe (40 mins), W Egan (0-1) for Flood (49 mins), T Hayes for McGarry (48 mins), J Holland for Keaney (56 mins).

Éire Óg: R Keating; B Kavanagh, M Fitzgerald, J Lowry; R Mahon, M Furey, P McElligott; J Morrissey, E Ruth; R Dunphy (0-2), S Gannon (0-1), C Hulton; D O'Brien (0-2), C Mullins, C Blake (0-1). Subs: K Chatten for McElligott (17 mins), D Hayden for Mullins (44 mins), N Quinlan for Hulton (56 mins).

Referee: F Smyth (Offaly).

All-Ireland club semi-finals

Football (4th January 2020)

Corofin (Galway) v Nemo Rangers (Cork), Cusack Park, Ennis, 1.30

Ballyboden St Enda’s (Dublin) v Kilcoo Owen Roes (Down), Kingspan Breffni Park, 3.30.

Hurling (5th January 2020)

Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny) v Slaughtneil Emmets (Derry), Pairc Esler, Newry, 2.0

St Thomas (Galway) v Borris-Ileigh (Tipperary), LIT Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, 4.0.