The day finally arrived. Much anticipation, preparation, challenge matches, training nights every one was now looking forward to a great day’s hurling.
The day started with a team photo in the brilliant sunshine in the hallowed home pitch of Páirc Uí Mhurchú. You could feel the excitement in the air before our trip to the North County Dublin home of O’ Dwyers GAA in Balbriggan. All going to plan so far!
Our wonderful hosts seemed surprised at our early arrival which resulted in a flurry of activity to get us settled into a dressing room which they did. To mark 100 years in existence, O’ Dwyers had organised for a parade of all of the teams behind a piper. This was a great treat for the hordes of supporters and added to a brilliant day.
Our first match was on the club’s second pitch  Depending on who we asked, the walking time to the pitch was to take between 6 and 12 mins along a winding path. After a few wrong turns, we eventually arrived at the pitch which is set on a cliff side overlooking the Irish Sea.
First Match V St Catherines
Our opposition in the first match, St Catherines (Erin go Bragh & Westmanstown Gaels combined) had been racking up huge wins in previous league games however they had not met this Ballyboden team. Aided by a light breeze and some pre match words, the Boden lads roared into this game and within a few minutes had opened up an early lead helped by some brilliant point taking by Louis Lovett and Mark McSharry,  All over the field the Boden players were playing out of their skins.Our wing backs Sam Byrne and Lucca Browning were repelling attack after attack and driving ball down the flanks to our wing forwards James Cullen and Michael McShane who were digging out balls and feeding them to our full forward line. Despite this, there seemed to an extra man in the goal and the ball just would not go in. Then against the run of play, a rare attack by the Catherine’s forward line resulted in a rocket being launched at our goal. Despite our brilliant goalkeeper Brendan Cregan getting a hurl to it ,the ball dropped into the net.
After a refresh at half time the team took the field. By this stage the wind had become much stronger and the Boden sideline and supporters knew we were in for a tough 20 mins. Then the Boden roar began and this time it was the Boden supporters who became the extra man for the team by roaring encouragement at every opportunity. The Boden players responded getting the first point of the half. The Catherine’s team looked bewildered at heart this Boden team were displaying. Our under 13 lads Gavin Leddy, Kevin Byrne and Ryan Culleton were now at the pace of the game and giving Catherine’s more things to worry about. Then in a moment of brilliance Jack O Connor the Boden midfielder (who was given the job of stopping their best player) went one better. After taking a ball he had no right to get he took off for goal with only one thing on this mind. Leaving the falling defenders behind he buried a brilliant goal! This seem to spark the St Catherine’s team into action. They seemed to have given up hope of trying to beat the magnificent Boden defence led by Sean Wall who was outstanding in every way and the full back line of Gavin Leddy, Dan Kennedy and Dylan French and instead they opted for long range efforts using the breeze and picked up four unanswered points in the last few minutes. The unanswered was not for the want of trying, Our refreshed forwards led by our stylish full forward Conor Murphy were creating many chances against a strong defence but despite near misses, brilliant saves we could not get the necessary scores to save the match.
Full Time Score St Catherines 1.9  Ballyboden 1.5.
After taking on some refreshments the teams next opponents were the mighty St Brigids. A division 3 team who had lost their opening game so were coming to this in a match both sides needed to win to progress. After some pre match words and psychology, a realigned Boden team took to the field. Once again Boden was aided by the breeze. In a low scoring half were both sides seemed to be shadow boxing most of the play took place between the 45s and the Boden lads didn’t give an inch. New heroes emerged in the brilliant displays of Aodhan O’Reilly and Ollie Brophy who were like men possessed. Working tirelessly for the team in a game where the Boden tactics were clearly to stop the mighty Brigids men from getting into their stride. Our forward line led by the impressive Daniel Walsh were holding up ball and physically putting it up to a well drilled Brigid’s defence, This resulted in no clean ball being released and each time the ball landed in midfield once again Ollie and Aodhan made sure it went straight back in again. On the rare occasion that the ball did bet through the midfield our power house centre back Sean Wall cleared every ball up the field.
Half Time Score Ballyboden 0.2. St Brigids 0.0
The Boden Boys came off the field and looked worried. They knew they had worked hard against the Brigids team but despite having the wind they were really up against it in the second half. The boys gathered in a circle. The management team just lit a spark and the two Captains Sean Wall and Jack O Connor took over. By the time the boys broke the circle they were ready for battle. This was it! The ball was thrown in and what followed was display by a Boden team which will live in the memory for years to come. The Boden boys driven by sheer hunger and desire tore into this half like men possessed. Hooking, blocking, flicking, chasing, racing, sprinting, shouldering.  With both sets of supporters urging their teams on. The Boden supporters were winning the roaring battle too. The Boden supporters were so loud  they possibly could have been heard across the Irish Sea in Wales. For the Boden mentors of Neil, Liam and Conleth all the hard work of getting these boys to believe was now coming together. Meanwhile in the match attack after attack by the Brigids men was being repelled with Dan Kennedy, Gavin Leddy and Dylan French putting bodies on the line. Aodhan O Reilly who was reading the game brilliantly seem to in the right place to catch every ball. A piece of individual brilliance from Lucca Browning taking a full force sliothar from the sky. Killing it dead and driving it up the field left the Boden supporters momentarily speechless. The best was yet to come… a long ball brilliantly held up by our forwards found its way to Eoghan Walsh who likes scoring goals and he buried the ball in the net. The Boden supporters erupted but the game was far from over. The Brigid’s lads were moving their attack lines across the field as they were getting no joy through the middle however they didn’t bank on meeting more Boden resistance from the brilliant defending of Sam Byrne who was outstanding. The Brigids lads upped the pressure again. wave after wave of attack resulted in a ball over the top to their classy forward who turned and let fly a rocket. This time however despite a strong sun in the eyes goalkeeper Brendan Cregan in a brilliant reactive save deflected the ball over the bar. At the other end Daniel Walsh, Conor Muphy, Michael McShane were still working tirelessly to stop the ball coming out. This effort was a huge factor in this match as it frustrated the Brigids team.
With a few minutes to go Shane Flood on the right wing (it was hard to know if he was wing back or forward he covered so much ground) was making space and causing the Brigids team endless problems. Brigids then won a free in the middle of the pitch. The ball is dropped in and despite tremendous efforts by the Boden backs the ball is struck to net. This gave the Brigids men hope and the goal was quickly followed by a point. The Boden boys dug deep with some excellent play by Mark McSharry in the midfield and the roaming Eoghan Walsh. With hard working performances by James Cullen, Michael McShane, Aodhan O’Reilly and Ollie Brophy the Boden boys dug deep. The two Captains Jack O’Connor and Sean Wall were leading by example, followed by Kevin Byrne and Gavin Leddy who were brilliant. The final whistle went and Boden had prevailed in a battle not been seen on the coast of North Dublin since the Battle of Clontarf. The Boden supporters had also won the battle with the Brigids supporters.
Final Score Ballyboden 1. 3  St Brigid’s 1.2
A quick team talk followed and some refreshments before we started our long walk back to the main pitch.
Next up was the home team O’Dwyers,  nice and refreshed ready to do battle,  they were were waiting on us.The Boden forwards led by the stylish and skillfull Ryan Culleton roared into an early lead.  The home team responded with some well taken scores. Our boys responded again and were now winning the midfield battle. Despite some neat conversions from the stick of Mark McSharry the Boden lads trailing at half time.
Once again the half time talk was of showing grit and belief to dig this result out. The boys once again tore into the home team. The Boden foward line was led once again by Conor Murphy and he was being watched closely by the home team’s defence. The Boden Boys stuck a ball over the bar. The home team responded with two more to leave it a one point game to the home team. The boden supporters were now in full voice with some even infiltrating the home teams supporters. Eoghan Walsh once again gathered a ball and broke down the right flank, turning swiftly for goal he let fly a rocket which travelled so fast it was hard to see where it went. Despite calls that the ball went through a hole in the net. The referee rechecked with the umpire and the ball was called wide. The home team then added two more scores but despite valiant efforts by Daniel Walsh, James Cullen now operating in the midfield and the constant encouragement from Louis Lovett who could be heard as far off as Skerries. the Ballyboden lads could not give any more.
Final Score O’Dwyers 1.8 Ballyboden 1.4
For this group of players who took to the field at 10.30 as boys they came off the field at 2.30 as men. All of the team ran themslves to the ground. The Boden supporters, despite being disapponited, once again rose to the occasion with massive cheers and congratulations to the boys who had done themselves , their families and the club proud. This is a great team who never give in. Every ball is contested. Tackles are made. Nothing is made easy for the opposing team. This team never lacked grit,determination, spirit or skill. This day they achieved the ultimate goal which is belief.
The sideline mentors of the day of Neil, Liam and Conleth had also given everything to provide the team with the best possible chance. Feelings of “What if” quickly turned to pride and the gratitude to the entire team who had performed so well on the day. A special word of thanks to our two outstanding captains Sean Wall and Jack O’Connor.
The team in full:
Aodhan O’Reilly, Lucca Browning, Brendan Cregan, Louis Lovett, Conor Murphy, Kevin Byrne, Daniel Walsh. Eoghan Walsh. Mark McSharry,
Dylan French, Dan Kennedy, James Cullen, Michael McShane, Sam Byrne, Ryan Culleton, Gavin Leddy, Shane Flood, Ollie Brophy, Sean Wall and Jack O’Connor
Many thanks to Leonita for sending updates back to the club for Boden’s Twitter and to Charlie Kennedy for the great photos.
For more photos, see here