Dublin midfielder Michael Darragh Macauley fully fit for Ballyboden All-Ireland semi-final against Kilcoo
DUBLIN midfielder Michael Darragh Macauley has returned to full fitness in time for Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final clash between his club Ballyboden St Enda’s and Down’s Kilcoo.
The Leinster and Ulster champions collide at Cavan’s Kingspan Breffni ground and seven-time All-Ireland winner Macauley is expected to start for Anthony Rainbow’s side alongside fit-again Aran Waters and Darren O’Reilly.
Macauley, who missed the Dublin final and was a substitute throughout the Leinster campaign, was pivotal in Ballyboden’s run to the All-Ireland title in 2016 and is the most experienced player in the side along with former Dublin forward Conal Keaney.
“In general we’re good to go,” said selector Finnian Hyland.
“Experience is huge. Michael and Conal are in their 30s now but we have other guys in their mid or late 20s who were around in 2016 as well and they have been really, really strong all year.
“There are 12 or 13 of the current squad who would have played in that All-Ireland final in 2016.”
Hyland, brother of former Cavan manager Terry Hyland, is one of a number of Ballyboden clubmen with strong family connections to the Breffni county including players Conal Keaney, Tom Hayes, Kieran O’Reilly, Darren O’Reilly and Cian Murray and physio Eamon O’Reilly.
He describes Saturday’s encounter against the Ulster champions as “a 50-50” clash.
“We have seen them on TV and we’ve watched a couple of the games they played in the Down championship as well,” he said.
“They are very good, very formidable and a very close-knit, strong team, there’s no doubt about that. In fairness, I think it’s going to be a 50-50 game and whoever can show up on the day and get the performance will win the game.
“Kilcoo are very good at defending and they can transition quickly as well. They have won most of the games in Ulster by narrow margins, their midfield and half-forwards all drop back and then come at you very, very quickly.
“We’ve done a fair bit of work on them, just the same as they will have done on us.”
The Ballyboden scoring stats are dominated by Basquel brothers Colm and Ryan while Kilcoo have a much greater spread of contributors throughout the side. Only three players – Richard McEvoy (0-7), Paul Devlin (0-10) and Jerome Johnston (1-4) – have scored in each of the last four games and other players have chipped in with vital scores including Daryl Branagan who hit a match-winning 1-2 in the Ulster final win over Donegal’s Naomh Conaill.
“In fairness to both Colm and Ryan, they have stepped up in the championship for us this year,” said Hyland.
“We went unbeaten in the Dublin league until Ballymun beat us in the league final last week and we scored fairly freely from all over the place. Dublin club football is quite strong so we were very pleased that we were able to get scores from other than the two lads. But Colm and Ryan are in great form and we’ll definitely be looking at them to carry the thing again for us.”
Saturday’s game will be Kilcoo’s first ever All-Ireland semi-final while Ballyboden have the valuable experience of their successful 2016 campaign to draw upon. Despite that, Hyland argues that the Magpies have “a lot more experience” than the ’Boden outfit.
“They won seven out of eight Down titles and they have been knocking on the Ulster door for years,” he said.
“They are a very experienced group and we’re not nearly as experienced because Dublin football is more cut-throat – you have different winners every other year so it’s hard to put a run together.
“Whether you come out of Leinster or Ulster it’s no different, you just have to go and play the game and I think it’s going to be a 50-50 game and whoever can show up on the day is going to be the winner.”