A cool autumnal Sunday morning heralded another challenge for the Ballyboden Junior A team. After a  series of three defeats by the smallest of margins in the round-robin stage of the competition the team was handed another challenge in the relegation section of the Junior 1 championship against a Whitehall Colmcille outfit that had also experienced narrow defeats. It’s not a phase of competition that either team expected or wanted to be in but the day was here for the first chance to preserve our Junior 1 championship status.
After a few weeks of good preparation fielding a team was becoming a problem – the old adage of work being the curse of the drinking man should be replaced in our version with work being the curse of the student GAA player. (Maybe we should campaign to keep Sunday sacred). In any event a panel of nineteen was assembled for the game in Sancta Maria.
In an attempt to make the best use of the talent available the defence was re-jigged and our captain Kevin Cronin stood in at full back, flanked by Rory Jordan and Ryan Bradshaw. Karl Reddy manned the pivotal back position and was aided by Charlie McPartland and Barry O’Donnell. In the middle were the dynamic duo of Tommy Burke and Sam Lally. The half forwards were led by Eoghan Monahan with Cian Lynch and Conor Barton on the flanks. Up front Conor Deane had Rory Knight and David Gilheaney for company. The bench wasn’t sloppy either with Daire Lambert, Conor Conway,  Michael Dunne and James Hutchinson. Behind all these lads was the reliable Stephen McGrath between the sticks.
Playing with the wind Whitehall got off to a good start with a point after 2 minutes. Deano responded a couple of minutes later. Despite playing against the breeze Boden were doing most of the attacking but unable to get good space to get a shot off. After another Whitehall point Boden notched 1-2 with a peno from Deano deftly slotted into the corner and points from Conor Barton and Mono. Boden were clearly in the driving seat but not pressing home the advantage. Further points were exchange before the break with Boden’s coming from Gillo and Cian leaving the half-time score at 1-5 to 0-4.
A satisfactory first half but we left a lot behind in terms of poor shot selection and the final pass going astray. Gillo and Deano were causing lots of problems for the opposition. Rory managed to hit the post with a speculative shot at goal. Free from his usual Sunday captivity in JumpZone Conor Barton was leaping like a 10 year old and catching great ball from their kick-outs. The backs remained disciplined and gave up very few chances. Barry and Ryan came out of defence time after time after dispossessing their opponents.
The second half began like the first with Whitehall getting the first point. Boden remained calm and worked the ball down the pitch before delivering low hard ball into our speed merchants in the corners. Tommy and Sam were well on top and in the first 15 minutes of the half Boden added four points; split evenly from the boots of Gillo and Deano. A shout from the side line imploring Conor to “get his head off the pillow” had the desired effect. Boden were playing well but still not entirely convincing. To shore up the back Michael replaced Charlie and at the front Daire replaced Cian. Soon after Mono found the net with a low drive beyond the reach of the goalkeeper’s outstretched left hand from about 20 yards out. Unfortunately Whitehall responded with a goal five minutes later.
in the final 10 minutes Boden scored 1-2 the goal coming from Tommy Burke who had a Kevin McManamon moment. I reckon Tommy was going for the point! We continued to defend stoutly and overturn the ball almost every time they attacked. Big Michael Dunne, Conor Conway and Kev showing the way in this regard. Barry, Ryan and Rory were as tight as tight can be and hounded their opponents on every step.
Karl Reddy is an unsung hero – big man with a big heart who gives 100% every time. His constant driving forward out of defence was impressive. Rory Knight covered some amount of ground and was instrumental in preventing Whitehall attacks. Daire Lambert deserves a mention as he had a 100% record in scoring goals when he played – unfortunately the record fell today despite having a gilt-edged opportunity at the death. Gillo’s movement, ball-handling and pace is a joy to behold; he can take a score too. Sam and Tommy demonstrated the value of real fitness today – it comes from hard work and the rest of the lads and management really appreciate the effort.
Sometimes goalkeeping is a lonely profession; it was today for Stephen for the right reasons. In addition to the good goalkeeping  the kick-outs were perfect giving us the optimal chance of winning the ball. Maith thú.
All in all a good day out.
A special mention for Conor Deane who just came home from abroad on Friday – he notched 1-4. He must have brought an O’Neill’s ball with him.
Best wishes to Ross McGrath who injured himself in our last match and is undergoing cruciate ligament operation this week
Also a speedy recovery to David Leech who injured his shoulder in the same game.