Result: 0-15 to 0-10 (AET)

Commercials Success for Boden as they reach historic final. Report by Shane O’Brien

Ballyboden St Enda’s…… 0-15 (AET)

Clonmel Commercials…   0-10

Ballyboden advanced to their first ever All-Ireland football final after an incredible comeback in normal time saw them clinch a five point victory in extra-time over Clonmel Commercials in Portlaoise on Saturday. Although the winning margin was five points, it does not reflect the close nature of the game, nor does it reflect the fact that Ballyboden were on the point of elimination with normal time just about up. Trailing by three points going into the final five minutes the odds were stacked against the Dublin champions. However, these odds would only get steeper when midfielder Declan O’Mahoney was sent off for a heavy tackle. O’Mahony’s dismissal seemed to spur Boden on, and they launched a ferocious fightback. But, with only one minute of injury time remaining, they still trailed by two points, but somehow they managed to claw themselves back level. Leading by example, Boden captain Darragh Nelson nailed the equaliser with mere seconds remaining. There would only be one winner in extra time after such a comeback, and Boden booked their passage to the All Ireland final with relative ease during the 20 minute spell.

It was Boden who started the better of the two sides, dominating the early proceedings. However, Boden lacked the cutting edge required to give themselves some early breathing space, kicking five wides inside the opening quarter of an hour. Boden only had Andrew Kerin’s solitary free to show for all of their chances and found themselves behind on the 15 minute mark thanks to an Ian Barnes free and a superb score from midfielder jack Kennedy from an acute angle. Kerin brought Boden back level minutes later as he curled over a much needed leveller. Boden moved two points clear soon after thanks to a Kerin free and a Sam Molony point from play. However, Molony’s score would be Boden’s last for nearly 20 minutes as Clonmel began to seize the initiative. Scores from Kevin Harney and Michael Quinlivan – hero of Clonmel’s Munster final win over Nemo Rangers – had the scores level, before an Ian Barnes free in first half stoppage time sent the Tipperary side in with the slenderest of leads. Nerves seemed to be playing a part in what was an error strewn game, and as the half wore on, chances were more and more at a premium.  Boden were the better team in the opening period, and would surely have been rueing the numerous early chances that they had passed up.

The second half began as the first half ended, with errors aplenty. Boden nearly gifted Clonmel an early goal as their attempts to play out from the back saw misplaced passes. Luckily though, Clonmel could not capitalise on their errors. A Conal Keaney free after 37 minutes brought the scores level, before a real moment of contention in the game. As Ballyboden Paul Durcan collected a high ball under the crossbar, he was forced backwards towards his own goal line. He came mightily close to bringing the ball over the line with him, and the Clonmel contingent among the packed O’Moore Park crowd screamed for the umpire to raise the green flag, however, both umpires deemed that the ball had not crossed the line and Boden survived. But Boden’s intensity fell away in the ten minutes that followed the appeals for a goal, and Clonmel put a bit of daylight between the sides. Ian Barnes, Michael Quinlivan and Jack Kennedy all chipped in with lovely scores to give the Tipperary side a three point lead heading into the game’s final quarter. Keaney brought Boden back to within two with a simple free, but his score was cancelled out by Jason Lonegran who popped up with the score of the day as he sliced a sensational effort over the bar with outside of his left boot. Boden were then reduced to 14 when Declan O’Mahoney recklessly charged into a tackle with Commercials midfielder Aldo Matassa. Boden manager Andy McEntee said afterwards that the challenge may have only deserved a yellow, but the tackle was high and dangerous and the referee had no choice but to send him off. However, Boden rallied and picked off the next two scores through Kerin and Colm Basquel to make the game a one point game. It could easily have been level had Keaney converted a routine free from under the posts. With Boden vying desperately for possession, Commercials broke up the other end and delivered what appeared to be the final blow as it made it a two-point game with only 90 seconds remaining. However, Boden’s character shone through and points a free from Kerin and a brilliant effort from Nelson brought the game to extra time.

The momentum was well and truly with the Dublin side now and they held their opponents scoreless in extra time. Commercials’ cause was not helped when they lost Michael Quinlivan to a black card early in the first half of extra-time for what seemed like an innocuous tackle. The black card was Quinlivan’s fourth of the championship. Boden were also able to replace O’Mahoney and they took control of the game. Two frees from Kerin and a Ryan Basquel point had Boden on the cusp of an All Ireland final and Conal Keaney added the clincher when he latched onto a miscued kickout and gave Boden a four point lead. Keaney added a further to point to make absolutely sure of the victory and send the Boden fans into raptures. This was not Boden’s best performance by any means, but the character they showed to fight back is a testament to the players. Indeed Andy McEntee admitted he feared the writing was on the wall following O’Mahony’s dismissal, and that “the fat lady had begun to clear her throat. “ Boden captain Darragh Nelson insisted it was the never say die attitude of his players that saw them come back from the dead. “It was now or never and we just went for it. The last five minutes of games is where we come alive. It’s just a great feeling to be in an All Ireland final” said Nelson. Boden forward Colm Basquel echoed the sentiments of his captain and claimed it felt “special” to be in an All Ireland final.

Boden will meet Mayo and Connaught champions Castlebar Mitchels in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day after the Mayo side prevailed 0-13 – 0-12 against Crossmaglen Rangers of Armagh in the other semi final.