This would be classed as a get-out-of-jail operation for Ballyboden if they hadn’t been making a habit of such escapes.
Portlaoise four years ago and Na Fianna, St Jude’s and Newtown Blues this year have all felt the fury of the 2017 All-Ireland champions in the final straight and here was no different as they claimed a second provincial title in four years.
It was an escape and yet at the same time it wasn’t. The atrocious playing conditions hurt them more than they did Éire Óg as it was Ballyboden who attempted to play the more expansive football for most of this affair in Portlaoise. They dominated proceedings without showing it on the scoreboard.
When Seán Gannon sent over his second point to put the Carlow town men a point up in the 55th minute following a quickly-taken free Ballyboden found themselves behind for the first time in the second half.
With the gale mostly at their backs from the turnaround and the sides level 0-3 apiece, it seemed they had done enough spadework in the opening 30 minutes to push on. Instead, Éire Óg soaked up the pressure and attempted to take them on the counter.
Ballyboden went ahead for the first time in the game in the 36th minute but that was soon cancelled out by a lovely outside-of-the-boot effort by Ross Dunphy. When Conal Keaney sent over his second point to push the Firhouse Road side ahead once more it was Jordan Morrissey who rubbed it out at the other end.
Ballyboden came close to emptying their bench to try and overpower Ballyboden but it was only after Gannon’s score that their strength in resources was evident. Warren Egan’s equaliser was the result of a succession of passes as Ballyboden played keep ball in front of a loaded Éire Óg rearguard.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Warren Egan,” said Ballyboden manager Anthony Rainbow. “He missed one when he came on and had the balls to step up and kick it over the bar the second time.
“We had that sort of fighter finish in the last five minutes. We pressed their kick-outs – lost one but won it back again and won the other two. That doesn’t just happen on the day. That’s down to training and what we do during the year and what we did last year as well because we have evolved that game-plan.”
Egan’s kick was certainly propelled by the wind but there was more than an element of measurement about the next score, Ryan Basquel’s point, which was met by rapturous applause from the Dublin following in the stand. And when Michael Darragh Macauley fisted over after the two minutes of allocated time the contest was concluded.
Rainbow couldn’t fault the composure of his charges as they made the most of the crucial opportunities. “I think it’s part of our game-plan — we don’t want to be shooting from silly angles and giving the ball away. We really want to be holding possession and work the score. And I think we worked the score brilliantly on those two shots.
“Ryan’s score over on the left hand side, very similar to Warren’s, was an incredible score. Then Mick’s score at the end, we just worked it from our back line and brought it down the right hand side, Mick was lucky enough to get free and fist it over the bar. Again, that’s part of what we’ve done in the last two years, holding possession and try not to turn it over and give it back to the opposition.”
With the sides both having kicked just three points in the first half, there might have been a sense that Éire Óg didn’t do enough with the wind advantage they had. However, their manager Joe Murphy argued it wasn’t so favourable to them.
“The wind was sort of changing. I don’t think the wind was a feature in the game, it wasn’t benefitting either team in either half. The game was so tight and both defences were really organised and really on top of their opposing forwards for large portions. The wind wasn’t really a deciding factor.”
Éire Óg’s three first-half scores came within a period of 90 seconds. Dunphy fired over the opening score of the game in the 11th minute and his team feasted on the next two Ballyboden kick-outs to score via Gannon and Christopher Blake.
It took Ballyboden until the 23rd minute to register their first score when Colm Basquel availed of Keaney breaking down a 45 that had dropped short and 18 minutes to draw level when Ryan Basquel punished a foul by Mark Fitzgerald on Alan Flood.
Ballyboden had the only goal chance of the game in the 21st minute when Flood and Darren O’Reilly combined to set Ryan Basquel in but Ricky Keating snuffed out the threat.
Scorers for Ballyboden St Enda’s: C Basquel, C Keaney. R Basquel (1 free) (0-2 each); W Egan, MD Macauley (0-1 each).
Éire Óg: R Dunphy, S Gannon (0-2 each); C Blake, J Morrissey (0-1 each).
BALLYBODEN ST ENDA’S: D Gogan; B Dwan, S Clayton, C Flaherty; K Kennedy, R McDaid, B Bobbett; D McCabe, D O’Mahoney; A Flood, C Basquel, D O’Reilly; R McGarry, R Basquel (c), C Keaney.
Subs: MD Macauley for McCabe, S Gibbons for Bobbett (inj) (both 40); W Egan for Flood (49); T Hayes for McGarry (50); J Holland for Keaney (57).
ÉIRE ÓG: R Keating; B Kavanagh, M Fitzgerald, J Lowry; R Mahon, M Furey, P McElligott; J Morrissey, E Ruth; R Dunphy, S Gannon, C Hulton; D O’Brien, C Mullins, C Blake.
Subs: K Chatten for McElligott (inj 17); D Hayden for Mullins (44); N Quinlan for Hulton (56);
Referee: F Smyth (Offaly).