Ballyboden St Enda’s can go all the way, reckons Michael Darragh Macauley

Michael Darragh Macauley is in new territory.

Ballyboden St Enda’s can go all the way, reckons Michael Darragh Macauley

Right now, that amounts to somewhere or other in Thailand with the rest of the Dublin squad. He flew out Monday morning, less than 24 hours after Ballyboden St Enda’s claimed a maiden Leinster club football title thanks to their dramatic defeat of Portlaoise.

When he returns home, it will be to Ballyboden duties rather than a pre-season with Jim Gavin’s troops. An All-Ireland semi-final against Clonmel Commercials or Tir Chonaill Gaels awaits in mid-February, the reward for the winners there coming in the form of a Croke Park date on St Patrick’s Day.

Uncharted it may be, but Macauley believes it is within reach.

“Yeah, why not? Let’s go at it, let’s give it a good rattle,” he said before leaving for south-east Asia. “Obviously there’s some huge teams left in it but, yeah... teams that have kind of been there and done it before. We’re new fishes to the game but you just never know what’s going to happen.”

Club runs and the effect they have on inter-county players can divide opinion. Some county managers bemoan the loss of personnel for such a stretch of time, others understand the benefits of people experiencing highs in other environments.

For Macauley, the club has been an undeniable boon. Though he won another Celtic Cross with the Dubs this year, it was one earned on the back of some unfamiliar bench time, as Brian Fenton’s emergence left not just him but the likes of Denis Bastick scrambling for the role of the new man’s chief lieutenant.

Claiming titles with your club isn’t a bad way to exorcise any personal demons that may have given rise to and Macauley is upbeat about the bounce he can experience by lining out for Ballyboden before returning to county duties midway through the Allianz League.

“Obviously you just have to get your body right,” he said. “I’ve been talking to a few lads who have been there and done it before. They’ve kind of said that this will help you going into the inter-county (season), you’re going to be a lot fitter.

“You have to get yourself fresh, both physically and mentally but, from a physical perspective, if you’re smart about it you’re going to have yourself in top condition going into the New Year. So I’m definitely looking forward to that.”

As Dublin representatives, Ballyboden will carry a good amount of expectation given the county’s modern club pedigree but Macauley isn’t getting carried away and admits that they required the “rub of the green” to overcome a wasteful Portlaoise in Tullamore last weekend.

Manager Andy McEntee, who has been instrumental in their success, admitted as much last Sunday. So did Conal Keaney and pretty much any Ballyboden player who escaped the clutches of their supporters to have a quiet and considered word.

That said, they have the ammunition to merit confidence. The spine of the team is solid, starting with Donegal’s Paul Durcan between the sticks, through to Stephen Hiney, Darragh Nelson, Macauley and Declan O’Mahony in midfield and Conal Keaney at full-forward.

The side is unquestionably a better vintage than the one which last emerged from Dublin in 2009 and failed to make the provincial decider, as it has benefited significantly from the emergence of a glut of players with experience and success to their credit with both club and county.

Macauley could see that a deep run was no long shot. “I kind of knew all the way going through this year that Ballyboden had a really strong team and that’s what made me buy into it even more so early. I knew this team had potential.

““So, look, obviously the All-Ireland, you’re on a high and you have to come down from it. You get back up for it then for the club season but, yeah, there was too much potential this year to throw it away and not win anything.”

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