Ballyboden pip Portlaoise in thrilling Leinster final
Ballyboden 2-09 Portlaoise 1-11
Dublin title holders, Ballyboden St Enda’s have been crowned Leinster club football champions for the first time. They edged out a luckless Portlaoise side after an epic final in Tullamore.
A point from wing back Aran Waters in the final minute of normal time proved the winning score. Ballyboden’s win means that Dublin clubs have now won the competition four times in a row and ten times since 2003.
This was the sixth time in a row that Portlaoise have lost to a Dublin side in the competition and their third final loss to Dublin clubs.
This defeat will hurt the most. They should at least have taken the final into extra time but top scorer Paul Calahane screwed a simple looking 13m free left and wide of the post in the second minute of injury time.
Midfielder Conor Boyle missed a more difficult opportunity immediately afterwards from play and prior to Waters’ late point for Ballyboden the Laois champions squandered a 45.
It won’t be much consolation to Portlaoise but this was an epic contest. The underfoot conditions were slippery and at times both teams' decision to play possession football led to unnecessary turnovers.
But for effort, endeavour and sheer will to win there were few games in 2015 to equal this tie.
Ballyboden had a dream start when the ace goal poacher Andrew Kerins’ miss-hit soccer style shot rolled past the Portlaoise goalkeeper to give the Dublin kingpins a 1-1 to 0-1 advantage in the early stages.
But after Ballyboden had forged 1-3 to 0-2 ahead Portlaoise took control and four unanswered points brought the sides level with half time approaching.
Ballyboden edged back in front but the drama was only starting. Firstly, a high ball into the Ballyboden goalmouth deflected off Paul Cahalane and ended up in the net.
Advantage Portlaoise and their fans were still celebrating when Ballyboden struck back with Dublin star Michael Darragh Macauley finding the net in injury time to give his side a 2-4 to 1-6 advantage at the break.
There were no more goals in the contest and scores were at a premium in a tense second half. The key moment came in the final quarter when Brian McCormack got through the crowded Ballyboden defence and angled his shot for the left hand corner of the net.
But Donegal All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Paul Durkan – who returned from Doha where he is now based to play in the game - got his finger tips to the shot and he did enough to push the ball onto the post. Portlaoise did take the lead immediately afterwards but failed to add to their tally.
Conal Keaney’s frees were crucial for Ballyboden and they drew level before the late drama saw then home and a place in next February's All-Ireland club semi-final against the winners of next Sunday’s quarter final between Clonmel Commercials and Tír Chonail Gaels from London.