Cahillane howler hands Leinster crown to Ballyboden
AIB Leinster Club Senior Football Championship final: Ballyboden St Enda’s (Dublin) 2-9 Portlaoise (Laois) 1-11
PERHAPS the real story is that it took this long for Dublin super club Ballyboden St Enda’s to be crowned kings of Leinster football.
Still, nobody at the Firhouse Road outfit was taking anything for granted about their breakthrough triumph which arrived in quite dramatic circumstances at Tullamore’s O’Connor Park.
With half of the three minutes allotted for injury-time gone, seven-time champions Portlaoise were handed a routine 13-metre free to force extra-time.
Considering they’d led at various stages in both halves and forced a stunning save from ’Boden goalkeeper Paul Durcan (above) in the 50th minute, it was the least they deserved.
But in what can only be described as an aberration from 26-year-old former Laois forward Paul Cahillane, the one-time Celtic youth player sliced his kick high and agonisingly left of the left upright.
Conor Boyle had a half-chance to equalise later on but it’s Cahillane who will unfortunately be forever remembered for spurning his opportunity.
The bottom line is that Aran Waters, a 42nd minute substitute for Ballyboden, will go down as the game breaker with his 60th minute point proving to be the winner.
Their reward is a February 13 All-Ireland semi-final clash with London’s Tir Chonaill Gaels or Munster champions Clonmel Commercials.
“Certainly, when they were lining up for that free-kick, I was thinking extra-time,” said Ballyboden manager Andy McEntee.
“In fairness to our lads, they didn’t really get a chance to relax after winning Dublin. They’ve just continued to work and that’s really what they did out there today.
“It mightn’t have been pretty but they just continued to work. I think that was reflected in the result.
“There’s things we could have done better. We could have defended better and we didn’t spot where we were causing them trouble and go after that. I thought that long diagonal ball was causing them trouble but I don’t think we did enough of it.
“We actually overdid it in the middle of the field. But, in all fairness, only for Paul Durcan, we could have been in real trouble. I think we had chances ourselves as well but Paul was huge for us.”
Conal Keaney’s role for ’Boden was impressive, eight years after losing a Leinster final by a point at the same ground with the Ballyboden hurlers.
He scored four points, all from frees, and was a colossus while foraging for dirty ball in heavy conditions at the midlands venue.
Then there was goalkeeper Durcan, who continues to be flown back and forth from his work base in the Middle East for games.
He was outstanding in the county final and gave another tour de force yesterday, tipping that Brian McCormack shot onto the post 10 minutes from time when it looked all set to nestle in the net and seal victory for Portlaoise.
Shane Clayton was also excellent in defence for ’Boden while Dublin midfielder Michael Darragh Macauley covered a vast acreage and chipped in with a timely goal just before half-time.
Portlaoise had just taken the lead at that stage thanks to a scrappy Cahillane goal having fought back from a slow start when they fell four points down after 10 minutes.
But an excellent move involving Sam Moloney and Darren O’Reilly played in Macauley who applied a low finish between the ’keeper’s legs for ’Boden’s second goal.
That score left ’Boden 2-4 to 1-6 up at half-time but, while both sides enjoyed two-point leads during the second-half, it was the ultimate tit-for-tat encounter that always looked likely to go right to the wire.
Still, veteran corner-forward Andrew Kerin, who top scored for ’Boden with 1-2, might have made life easier late on had he netted a decent 54th minute opportunity instead of firing over.
Ballyboden: P Durcan; B Dwane, S Clayton, S Hiney; S O’Connor, D Nelson, R McDaid; MD Macauley (1-0), D O’Mahony; D Davey, D O’Reilly, C Basquel (0-1); C Keaney (0-4 frees), S Moloney (0-1), A Kerin (1-2).
Subs: S Gibbons for Davey (33), A Waters (0-1) for O’Reilly (42), S Durkin for O’Connor (47), D McCabe for O’Mahony (63).
Portlaoise: G Brody; D Seale, C Healy (0-1), J Delaney; E Whelan (0-1), K Lillis, B Mulligan; D Cullen, C Boyle; G Dillon, B Smyth (0-2), B Glynn (0-1); B McCormack (0-2), P Cahillane (1-2, 0-2 frees), C Rogers (0-2, 0-1 frees).
Subs: C Dunphy for Cullen (13), R Maher for Dillon (52).
Referee: J Hickey (Carlow)