Ballyboden edge out Éire Óg in AIB Leinster Club Final
AIB Leinster club senior football championship final
BALLYBODEN ST ENDA'S (DUBLIN) 0-8 ÉIRE ÓG (CARLOW) 0-6
By Paul Keane at MW Hire O'Moore Park, Portlaoise
Ballyboden St Enda's dug deep when it counted most in Portlaoise, firing a three-in-a-row of late points to edge a low scoring thriller and regain the AIB Leinster club title.
The Dubliners trailed gutsy Éire Óg by a point with the 60 minutes almost played and must have feared their second title in five seasons was in danger of slipping away in difficult conditions in the midlands.
But Anthony Rainbow's men refused to be beaten and the 2016 All-Ireland winners brought all their experience to bear in the closing minutes with points from Warren Egan, Ryan Basquel and Michael Darragh Macauley to seal it.
Both Egan and Macauley came in off the bench and played their impact sub roles to perfection, striking with lethal intent to secure the south Dublin side a precious piece of silverware.
They will return to action on January 4 at Cavan's Kingspan Breffni for an All-Ireland semi-final clash with Ulster champions Kilcoo.
It was Éire Óg's first provincial final since last winning the competition in 1998 - when current boss Joe Murphy was captain - and they made it back to the decider by displaying a miserly concession rate.
In their three previous games, wins over Castletown, Sarsfields and Portlaoise, they conceded an average of 10 points per match, holding Portlaoise scoreless from play in the second-half of their semi-final win.
That game was also in Portlaoise and the Carlow town side returned to the venue high on confidence and with a clear game plan to frustrate the Dubliners, which worked for long spells.
For Ballyboden's part, they'd opened up with some of their best football of the season in the semi-final win over Garrycastle when they registered 3-14.
The Firhouse Road men dominated much of the first-half possession as expected this time but found that buttressed Eire Og defence difficult to break down.
A couple of early exchanges summed up the pattern of the game; Conal Keaney beaten to a 50-50 ball by an Eire Og defender in the fourth minute, Colm Basquel blocked with a score attempt in the 11th minute and Basquel again denied in the 21st minute by the goalkeeper.
Éire Óg, in classic counter attacking fashion, took their chances when they arose at the other end and reeled off three points in a row in a blitzkrieg 90-second period across the 11th and 12th minutes.
Ross Dunphy, Sean Gannon and Chris Blake all converted and suddenly, in atrocious conditions with rain sheeting across the pitch, they were sitting pretty.
The four-time Dublin champions were patient though and finally got on the scoresheet in the 23rd minute through Colm Basquel. Keaney added a second in the 28th minute after a patient passing move and Ryan Basquel tied it up at 0-3 apiece just before the break from a free.
Ballyboden clearly possessed the momentum now but on a heavy pitch and with rain continuing to be driven across the pitch by a strong breeze, it was anyone's game.
Ballyboden twice took the lead in the third quarter through Colm Basquel but dogged Eire Og hit back on both occasions with points from Dunphy and Jordan Morrissey.
A hard hitting, physically draining game remained tied at 0-5 apiece until Gannon took a short free kick from Dunphy in the 56th minute and converted off his left foot to edge the underdogs ahead.
It looked like it might actually prove to be the winner as the clock ticked down but Ballyboden had other ideas and secured it at the death, Egan levelling it in the 60th minute before points from Ryan Basquel and Macauley that settled a tense and thrilling contest.
Ballyboden St Enda's scorers: Colm Basquel 0-2, Conal Keaney 0-2, Ryan Basquel 0-2 (0-1f), Warren Egan 0-1, Michael Darragh Macauley 0-1.
Éire Óg scorers: Ross Dunphy 0-2, Sean Gannon 0-2, Chris Blake 0-1, Jordan Morrissey 0-1.
Ballyboden St Enda's: Darragh Gogan; Shane Clayton, Bob Dwan, Cathal Flaherty; Kieran Kennedy, Robbie McDaid, Brian Bobbett; Declan O'Mahony, Donagh McCabe; Darren O'Reilly, Colm Basquel, Alan Flood; Ross McGarry, Ryan Basquel, Conal Keaney. Subs: Michael Darragh Macauley for McCabe (40), Sean Gibbons for Bobbett (40), Warren Egan for Flood (49), Tom Hayes for McGarry (50), James Holland for Keaney (56).
Éire Óg: Ricky Keating; Richie Mahon, Mark Fitzgerald, Jordan Lowry; Paul McElligott, Mark Furey, Brendan Kavanagh; Sean Gannon, Eoghan Ruth; Ross Dunphy, Darragh O'Brien, Colm Hulton; Chris Blake, Jordan Morrissey, Cormac Mullins. Subs: Kelvin Chatters for McElligott (17), Derek Hayden for Mullins (44), Niall Quinlan for Hulton (56).
Referee: Fergal Smyth (Offaly).