Result: 0-13 to 2-10

Senior footballers bow out in First Round of Championship

Ballyboden St Enda’s………………                   0-13

St Oliver Plunkett’s ER…………….                  2-10

2016 All Ireland Champions Ballyboden St Enda’s are out of the Dublin Championship at the first hurdle following a narrow three-point defeat to St Oliver Plunkett’s Eoghan Ruadh on Thursday night. The clash of the two Dublin heavyweights was the standout tie in the first round of the Dublin Championship and it lived up to its billing, serving up an enthralling encounter. Boden will no doubt be left wondering what might have been in a game they dominated for long periods, but wastefulness in front of the posts in the second half and the concession of two sloppy goals allowed Plunkett’s to stay in the game when they were second best.

It was Boden who did all of the early running and they took the lead after 12 seconds when Conal Keaney curled over a brilliant point from just inside the 45. Boden completely dominated the opening exchanges, putting immense pressure on the Plunkett’s kick out and that tactic paid immediate dividends when it led to Darragh Nelson kicking Boden’s second score. Much of the pre-match focus was on former Kerry star Paul Galvin who made his championship debut for Plunkett’s. However, the 37 year old struggled to get up to the pace of the game early on and it was his misplaced pass that allowed Donagh McCabe to canter towards the Plunkett’s goal and kick the easiest of scores. Ryan Basquel stretched Boden’s lead even further when he fired over on 7 minutes, but within a minute of that score disaster struck. One simple ball over the top put Dublin forward Bernard Brogan one-on-one with Josh Kane. Unselfishly, Brogan drew Kane in before laying the ball off to the onrushing Leigh Herron who had the simplest of finishes to make it a one point game. That score sparked Plunkett’s into life and Brogan levelled proceedings almost straight away, cutting in from the left wing to curl over off his right. From the restart, Plunkett’s took the lead for the first time when Leigh Herron added to his tally with a lovely point over his shoulder. In the space of 90 seconds, Boden’s lead had evaporated and their good start counted for nothing, however, this a team built on resolve and they soon fought their way back on top. Darragh Nelson kicked his second point to level the game, before Brogan and Ryan Basquel swapped points. Three unanswered points from Sam Molony, including one well taken one from play, saw Boden move into a lead that was somewhat befitting of their performance. Colm Basquel, on for the injured Shane Clayton, curled one over on the stroke of half time to cancel out a Brogan free to ensure Boden went in at the break with a three-point lead.

A three point margin absolutely flattered Plunkett’s, truth be told. They had been outfought, outpaced and outplayed for large parts of the half, but kept in touch by virtue of having one of the best forwards in the country lurking in their full forward line. Boden again got off to a dream start to the second half when Colm Basquel clipped over his second point off his left. Again, however, a ball over the top was to be the undoing of all of Boden’s good work. For the second time, Brogan was the recipient and this time he was hauled unceremoniously to the ground by Tom Hannifin just when he looked certain to score. The ensuing black card and penalty were undebatable and Plunkett’s forward Gareth Smith expertly dispatched the penalty to make it a one point game. Boden again responded well and two Keaney frees saw them restore their three-point lead nine minutes into the second half. Crucially, however, Boden wouldn’t score again and passed up numerous opportunities to stretch their lead in the following minutes. Points from Gareth Smith and Brogan brought the game back to a one point affair, before Paul Galvin made his only telling contribution to level proceedings with ten remaining. Three Plunkett’s frees in the last ten minutes gave them a buffer that they would not give up, and with experienced heads like Bernard Brogan, Alan Brogan and Paul Galvin (all of whom won player of the year between 2009-2011) in their ranks, Plunkett’s were able to run down the clock and see out a victory that had looked most unlikely at half time. Plunkett’s now advance to the second round of the Dublin Championship which will be played sometime after Dublin’s exit from the All Ireland.

For Boden, however, it is the end of the road for them in the 2017 Dublin Championship and they will now play in the ‘B’ championship after the All Ireland series. Once again, the structuring of the Dublin Championship must be called into question. There is no sense in playing one game in April and then not playing another game for five months. It is unfair on both the winners and the losers. For the winners, they lose any momentum they gain and it is impossible to stay focused on the task at hand. For the losers, they must lie fallow for the summer only to be rewarded with the B championship upon their return. There needs to be a round robin, something akin to the hurling championship. That way teams at least get three games before they are knocked out and winning teams have a better chance to build tactics and momentum.