Senior vs Kilmacud Crokes
Saturday, 8th October 2016

Result: 0-09 to 1-14

Ballyboden St Enda’s.... 0-09   Kilmacud Crokes..........  1-14    By Shane O’Brien

Reigning All Ireland club football champions Ballyboden St Enda’s were knocked out of the Dublin Championship by arch rivals Kilmacud Crokes in Parnell Park on Saturday.

A scrappy Paul Mannion goal midway through the first half and a powerful second half display from the Stillorgan side proved enough to inflict Boden’s first championship defeat in two years and end their reign as Dublin, Leinster and All Ireland champions.

A tired looking Boden will be left to rue a number of chances they passed up at the beginning of both halves when the game was still in the melting pot, but ultimately, Crokes were deserving winners.

In what was a tight opening quarter, Mark Vaughan’s early effort was quickly cancelled out by pointed frees from Boden duo Conal Keaney and Andrew Kerin, before David Nestor produced a spectacular save to deny Kerin a certain goal after Darragh Nelson saw his shot rebound off the post.

Kerin hit the post from the resulting 45 and Boden dropped a further two balls straight into Nestor’s hands before Mark Vaughan kicked two frees to give Crokes the lead. For all their dominance, Boden found themselves behind after a quarter of an hour.

Boden responded well, however, and were soon back ahead following points from Declan O’Mahoney and Colm Basquel.

Moments later, a soaring Aran Waters catch led to Keaney curling over one of the scores of the day off his left and Boden were very much in the ascendency.

Disaster struck, however, within a minute of that fine score when Crokes had the ball in the back of the net through the excellent Mannion. A beautiful diagonal ball from Brian Kavanagh found Mannion who finished high into the net after it pinballed between him and Robbie McDaid.

Once again a dominant Boden would find themselves behind as the game neared the break.

Callum Pearson extended Crokes’ lead almost instantly with a well taken point before an Andrew Kerin free on the stroke of half time kept the minimum between the sides.

The second half started in a similar vain to the first, with Boden creating a host of chances, but taking none of them. Darren O’Reilly saw his shot hit the post before Colm Basquel saw his effort drop short in a frustrating few minutes for the Firhouse Road side.

David Nestor proved again to be a thorn in Boden’s side as he produced a sprawling save to deny Darragh Nelson after a free flowing Boden move.

That save seemed to spur Crokes on and they tacked on two quick scores through Mannion and Vaughan to leave a goal between the sides.

Boden rallied once more though and two points in the space of 30 seconds from Conal Keaney brought Boden right back into the game, before a well struck point from substitute Barra McGarry had the sides level for the fourth time.

That was as good as it good for Boden, who faded badly in the final twenty minutes of the game. A Cillian O’Shea point put Crokes back ahead and seemed to completely transform the game’s momentum.

Boden were now finding it extremely difficult to get out of their own half and Crokes got a lot of joy from pressing high on the Boden kickout. O’Shea’s score was soon followed by an Andy McGowan point when a goal looked to be on.

The ever accurate Vaughan put a goal between the teams once more when he nailed a 45 and Crokes threatened to pull away.

And pull away they did. Scores from Mannion, Vaughan and Aidan Jones within the space of two minutes doubles Crokes’ lead and left Boden in desperate need of a miracle.

They were nearly gifted that miracle by Crokes’ goalkeeper David Nestor who was caught in possession a long way from goal, but Ross O’Carroll did brilliantly to stop Alan Flood’s strike on the line. There was a hint that O’Carroll touched the ball on the ground, but he was given the benefit of the doubt for what was a brilliant save.

In the remaining minutes, Mark Vaughan was able to add two further scores to Crokes’ tally, making it comfortably the largest score Boden have shipped in the championship since 2014.

That tight-knit defence that served them so well in their All Ireland run seemed to falter ever so slightly against Crokes. As a result, Crokes found the scores that bit easier to come by and players like Mannion, with electric pace, were able to run through gaps in the defence to create scoring opportunities.

But the Boden players can look back on their All Ireland run with immense pride. They have beaten some of the best teams in Dublin and the rest of the country on their magical run to Croke Park last March. They have almost always been considered the underdog, yet they have never been fazed by that particular tag.

It has been a wonderful journey following this team around Ireland as they took on Dublin, then Leinster, and lastly the rest of the country. Sadly it is over, but only for the time being and you can be sure these players will be raring to bounce back in 2017.

One man who deserves individual recognition is Andy McEntee. He deserves credit for the way he dismantled the likes of Castlebar and St Vincent’s last season in some of the most devastating performances Boden have ever produced.

He deserves even more credit for the way he transformed the image of what would predominately be seen as a hurling club, into a stronghold of Gaelic football. The people of Ballyboden owe a debt of gratitude to Andy McEntee. There is scarcely a man who deserves the chance to manage his own county more than him and may he have the best of fortunes in his endeavours.