Once again, the cream of Ireland’s emerging young hurling talent was on display in Carlow town on Saturday last, June 28th, when Carlow Town Hurling Club hosted their annual All-Ireland under-16 blitz on a magnificent sunshine filled day.

This annual event is split into 2 draws, the ‘A’ draw for Division 1 clubs and ‘B’ for Division 2 clubs, from all around the country.

Ballyboden were drawn in Group 4 of the ‘A’ draw at Graiguecullen GAA Club and faced stiff opposition in Camross of LAOIS, Cuala of DUBLIN and the Clare County Champions, KILMALEY. There was no back door option here, only the winning team would advance to the All-Ireland semi-final stage. No Pressure……………

Despite nervous starts in the morning, Boden had good wins over both Camross and Cuala (as did Kilmaley) so it was going to be down to the Clare champions and ourselves to see who would advance and who would be on the long road home in the afternoon sun.

Kilmaley got off to a great start and it looked as though we were in real trouble as they moved 4 points clear before we scored our first goal. A further 2 point by Kilmaley and we managed a second goal just before the half time whistle to go in all square on a score line of 2-0 to 0-6.

15 minute half’s pass by very quickly and we knew we would have to be much better in the second half to have a chance against this superb Clare team who must have been mystified as to why they were not much further ahead. Such is hurling!

The second half started off where it left off however the Boden lads, with the benefit of wise words in the half time huddle from Seamie, Andrew and Conor, hit the ground running this time and scored 4 goals and 6 points, to 2 points from Kilmaley. Kilmaley were rightly shocked and like true champions battled hard to the end but it was not to be for them and Boden advanced (with a final score of 6-6 to 0-8) to the Semi’s to face another great Clare Team, CLARECASTLE, (victors in Group 3 over St Aidans of Ferns, Eire Og, Ennis and Old Christians of Limerick) with the winners facing Group 1 winners KILMALLOCK of Limerick who had won their earlier semi-final encounter by a single point (2-9 to 2-8) against Group 2 winners KILNADEEMA-LEITRIM.

The semi-final, played in the sweltering afternoon heat at Carlow Town Hurling Club was another low scoring first half and a stiff test of both character and nerves. Boden left the pitch at the half with the tightest of margins (Boden 1-1 to Clarecastle 0-3). It was all to play for in the second half and once again Boden proved victorious with a final score line of 2-3 to 1-4.

The Final got underway at 5:55pm and it was still very hot out there!

Kilmallock, perhaps with the benefit of the additional rest time, were much quicker to the ball and were 3 points ahead before we registered our first point. After that it was score for score up to the half time whistle with Kilmallock going in at the break with a slender lead of 0-6 to 0-5. The water break and half time words were to again reap their reward as the lads exhibited the character, the will and the courage needed at times like these as they summoned the very last bit of energy they had to push on and record a fantastic and inspirational victory of 1-9 to 0-9 over a very fine and understandably very disappointed Kilmallock team.

Over the course of the long day, the Boden lads battled the heat, the opposition, the fatigue and still  maintained their composure and belief under very trying conditions.

Throughout the day there were noteworthy performances from Conor O Donoghue, Darragh Byrne, Luke Corcoran, Karl Weldon, Ciaran Crowley, James Holland, Hugh Keller, Shane Kennedy, Cillian Byrne, Mikey Dunne, Tommy Deane, Aidan Mellett, Sean Gorman, Ciaran Ryan, Aaron Coffey, Michael O Brien, Sean O Byrne, Conor Barton and Eoin Monahan.

A worthy mention also to Kilmallock and in particular their young Captain, who despite his great disappointment displayed great dignity and sportsmanship toward his opponents at the final whistle.

Thank you to Seamie O Neill, Conor McCormack, Andrew Coffey, Jerry Corcoran and Alan Mc Grath for preparing the team. To the many parents and supporters who travelled on the day a special thanks.

This victory is a first for Ballyboden St Endas and only the second time a Dublin club has won the ‘A’ final since the competition began in 1997.

Finally, a special word of thanks to Dan Harnedy and Martin Walsh of Carlow Town hurling Club for organising and managing a very fine event and to Graiguecullen GAA Club, our hosts in the group matches.