Result: 2-14 to 0-07

Brilliant Boden maul Mitchels to claim maiden All Ireland

By Shane O’Brien

Ballyboden St Enda’s…… 2-14  Castlebar Mitchels……… 0-07

It is October 2,  2015. Ballyboden St Enda’s are playing Kilmacud Crokes in the second round of the Dublin Senior Football Championship.  Most outside the club consider them to be long outsiders to win even this match, let alone the county championship. An All Ireland title is but a distant daydream. And yet five months down the road, Captain Darragh Nelson holds the Andy Merrigan cup aloft, following a perfect performance from his troops as they dispatched a much fancied Castlebar Mitchels of Mayo by 13 points in GAA headquarters.

But the underdog tag has always sat well with Ballyboden, and they proved it with their blistering start. Colm Basquel and Andrew Kerin both raised green flags inside a sensational opening 15 minutes where the Dublin and Leinster champions raced clear of their Western opponents and never looked back. Mitchels simply could not live with Boden’s searing pace in attack, matched with a defensive structure that has been the keystone of the club’s championship run.

The Mayo side were the more experienced of the two teams, having played in an All Ireland final just two years ago, but it was the Dublin side, who had never won a provincial championship prior to this season, that settled far quicker. Ryan Basquel, starting his first game since suffering a broken jaw in November, put younger brother Colm through on goal and the 20 year old, showing composure far beyond his years, bent a pinpoint shot around the onrushing Rory Byrne with the outside of his boot.

Manager Andy McEntee played up the importance of such an early goal, saying that “it was a double edge, it settled us and it probably unsettled them at the same time.” Boden were by far the better team in the early stages, and corner back Bob Dwan stretched their lead when he curled over a beautiful point from just inside the 45. A fisted Michael Darragh Macauley point, and a wonderful score from Ryan Basquel off his left near the touchline stretched the lead even further, before Andrew Kerin compounded Castlebar’s misery from the penalty spot. Aran Waters, filling in for Declan O’Mahoney in midfield, burst through on goal but was hauled unceremoniously to the ground by corner back Tom Cunniffe. Referee Diarmuid Kirwan had no option but to give the penalty, and Kerin Duly dispatched the kick to the bottom left corner.

It was St Vincent’s all over again. Ballyboden had come in as big underdogs, and had completely blown their opposition away within 15 minutes. Their forwards made intelligent runs and converted their chances brilliantly. At the other end Boden’s defence withstood everything Mitchels threw at them, showing some amazing commitment in the process. In particular, Shane Clayton and Darragh Nelson made outstanding blocks that not only stopped scores but gave a lift to the huge ‘Boden contingent in Croke Park. When Mitchels did eventually break through the ‘Boden defence, they were rebuffed by the Paul Durcan, who brilliantly tipped Neil Lydon’s shot onto the post. Neil Douglas did get Mitchels on the board from the resulting 45, but Boden responded with the next two scores. Firstly, Bob Dwan scored his second when he split the posts with the outside of his boot. Soon after, the excellent Stephen O’Connor got a deserved score when he played a one-two with Colm Basquel before curling over. Mitchels responded with two quick points before the break, but an eight point lead at half time is a very healthy position indeed, and Boden rarely looked under threat in the opening period.

Even still, at half time Boden fans worried that a fast Mitchels start to the second half could ignite the contest. But that start never materialised, and the Dublin side simply picked up where they left off. Not even the injury to 2013 Player of the Year Michael Darragh Macauley could halt Boden’s momentum. As Andy McEntee pointed out afterwards, Robbie McDaid provided brilliant midfield cover in Macauley’s absence. Corner back and Man of the Mach Bob Dwan got the Firhouse Road side rolling in the second half when he completed a hat-trick of points after a missed goal chance was recycled back to him. Dual star Shane Durkin added another point within seconds following great work from Conal Keaney as Boden began to put the game beyond doubt. Their cause was helped by some very wayward Castlebar shooting as they racked up four wides in the five minutes following Durcan’s point. In the meantime, points from Keaney and Ryan Basquel put Boden 12 points clear with only 15 minutes to play.

The Mayo champions clawed the deficit back to nine points with three successive points, but even then their players seemed to lack the belief to mount a comeback, and Boden merely widened the gap once more. In truth, they toyed with their opponents, holding possession for long periods and scoring some lovely points from play. When Andrew Kerin split the posts for his first point of the afternoon, Boden surpassed their highest score of the championship previously (2-10 against St Maurs). They had time to add three more points, including a beautiful score from Shane Durcan from a tight angle, before referee Kirwan called a halt to proceedings ad signalled wild celebrations among players and fans alike.

Their journey had started on a sunny May evening against St Maurs in the first round of the Dublin Championship. And now, 10 months later, this group of players had realised the dream of every club player by claiming the biggest of them all. Over 7,000 fans got behind the Boden team in Croke Park today, something that reflects how strong the community of Ballyboden is, and how much they support their club. “To see how much this means to all of the community and the club and its members, it’s phenomenal, it’s what you dream of,” Boden captain Darragh Nelson reflected following the St Patrick’s Day triumph.

From one to 15, Boden were outstanding today, but it is very much a squad game, and those who did not start today certainly played their part earlier in the championship. There were heroes all over the pitch today. Corner backs Bob Dwan and Shane Clayton were superb, and either could have been named man of the match. But to score three points from corner back is a truly remarkable statistic and Dwan fully deserved the award.

The Boden defensive deserves real credit, however. Limiting such a talented Castlebar forward line to just seven points is quite amazing. Especially given the fact that they had blown teams away on the road to Croke Park, scoring goals for fun.

On the other hand, Boden have only conceded two goals throughout their entire campaign, which is a simply unbelievable statistic to be able to boast. Manager Andy McEntee deserves huge credit, along with the players, for making them so impossibly hard to break down this year. At the other end, Boden’s forwards were equally impressive. To score 1-14 from play is an unbelievable return in an All Ireland final. Their pace and incisive running made them impossible to deal with and Castlebar simply had no answer.

It was, in truth, the perfect performance. The perfect day. A day that will live long in the memory.. May it be the first of many perfect days.