Result: 1-11 to 3-12

Ballyboden’s championship campaign got off to the worst possible start after a seven-point loss to Southside rivals Kilmacud Crokes in Parnell Park on Saturday evening. The game, which was manager Anthony Rainbow’s first championship match in charge, ebbed and flowed throughout and was ultimately lost with the concession of goals at vital stages. Two first half goals in the space of two minutes put Crokes in the driving seat of a game that was far more evenly contested than the winning margin suggests. With two points separating the sides late on, Crokes struck for a third and decisive goal as Boden probed to reduce the arrears.

Crokes started the brighter of the two sides and were three points ahead within four minutes thanks to scores from Cian O’Connor, Dan O’Brian and Pat Burke (free). Boden were struggling to settle early on and had championship debutant James Madden to thank for getting them off the mark when he pointed from distance. That score seemed to ease any nerves and within a minute Darren O’Reilly had fisted over the bar to cut the lead to the minimum. Boden were now in the ascendancy, enjoying success on the kick out and dominating possession, and when Colm Basquel kicked a routine free to draw them level it was the least they deserved. Five minutes later, however, they would find themselves six points down after Crokes wing-forward Shane Horan struck for goal twice in two minutes to leave them with a mountain to climb. Boden’s response came via Colm and Ryan Basquel, as each brother notched a well taken point to cut Crokes’ lead to four. But Crokes had the final say of the half when Horan and Cian O’Connor both tacked on points to stretch the lead back out to six at the interval. Boden enjoyed the majority of possession and territory in the first half, but crucially failed to take the lead. With six wides, Boden were wasteful in front of goal and failed to execute the chances they created. Crokes, on the other hand, were ruthlessly clinical in the first period and didn’t register a single wide.

Boden required a good start to the second half if they were to mount a comeback, but James Madden’s goal after just 30 seconds was more than they could have hoped for. After a period of recycled possession, Madden cut through the Crokes rearguard with ease before deftly stabbing the ball past David Nestor. Something of a fracas broke out after Madden’s goal and Crokes were perhaps fortunate to maintain a full compliment of players on the pitch, with referee Gary McCormack failing to spot an elbow from Andrew McGowan on Darren O’Reilly. The Stillorgan club regrouped well after the concession of that goal, with midfield pair Conor Casey and Craig Dias each notching well taken scores to keep Boden at arm’s length. Dias’ point would be Crokes’ last score for 21 minutes, however, as Boden fought their way back into the game with a delightful curling effort from the excellent James Madden and a Ryan Basquel free leaving a score between the teams. Boden will feel aggrieved that they didn’t draw level soon after, when Madden was denied his second goal for overcarrying, despite replays appearing to show that the wing-forward had only taken five steps before finishing to the net.

Colm Basquel brought Boden to within two points with a free, but that would be as close as Boden got to restoring parity. With just five minutes remaining, Crokes goaled for the third time after some pinball in the Boden defence put Dan O’Brian through on goal. O’Brian squared to Callum Pearson who showed great poise to finish to the top corner and effectively kill off Boden’s challenge. Ryan Basquel did respond immediately for Boden to cut the lead to four, but a Pearson point, coupled with two magnificent frees from Dublin star Paul Mannion stretched the lead and gave Crokes breathing room to close out the game in comfort.

Boden will rue the concession of three soft goals, two of which came in periods of they dominated. However, there are some undoubted positives to take from the game, and the performance of some of the young players, James Madden in particular, is one of them. Madden was terrific throughout and his 1-02 from play was a high note from a disappointing afternoon.

Boden must now regroup before a huge game on April 26th, when they face Raheny in Parnell Park. Raheny sit second in Group 1, following their three-point victory over Oliver Plunkett’s on Thursday. Anything other than a win will see Boden’s championship hopes ended prematurely.

Squad: Aran Waters, Bob Dwan, Brian Bobbet, Cathal Flaherty, Cian Murray, Colm Dunne, Conor Dooley, Darragh Gogan, Darragh Nelson, Darren O’Reilly, Declan O’Mahony, James Holland, James Madden, Kieran Kennedy, Ross McGarry, Ryan Basquel, Sam Molony, Sean Gibbons, Stephen O’Connor, Tom Hanifin, Warren Egan, Conal Keaney, Robbie McDaid, Alan Flood, Michael-Darragh Macauley, Colm Basquel, Simon Lambert, Shane Clayton

Thanks to Cliona Mellet for the photos, for more see here