HISTORY often has a funny way of forming. For most of the last ten years, Ballyboden St Enda’s Leinster club ambitions rested with their hurlers.
They were one of the best club hurling teams in Leinster – winning five Dublin titles in a row – and came close on a couple of occasions to winning a provincial title.
Ballyboden’s hurlers always thought they would win Leinster but the footballers delivered that history first before Christmas.
Ballyboden have always been a strong dual club, but Michael Dara Macauley is their only big name county footballer and this squad is packed with, or at least was packed with, current and former Dublin hurlers; Stephen Hiney, Conal Keaney, Shane Durkin, Simon Lambert, Conor McCormack, ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan and Conor Dooley.
If the hurlers had reached a county final (Cuala beat them in a quarter-final), it’s unlikely the footballers would have won Dublin and gone on to take Leinster.
When Ballyboden were chasing Leinster hurling titles, they often put too much pressure on themselves to get the job done. That experience was important in the footballers’ run but they also had the luck that the hurlers never seemed able to find.
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Their modern hurling identity has deprived the footballers of the same status and profile of a St Vincent’s but this is still a serious outfit.
Any team which wins Dublin now has to be. Their current run hasn’t come from nowhere either. Ballyboden lost Dublin semi-finals to Vincent’s in 2013 and 2014, Leinster champions in both seasons.
Neither have Castlebar Mitchel’s come from nowhere. Their dethroning of the All-Ireland champions Corofin in November was well signposted. They defeated Corofin in the 2013 Connacht semi-final before going on to reach the All-Ireland final, which they lost to St Vincent’s.
Castlebar also reached an All-Ireland final in 1994 when they were hammered by Nemo Rangers. Yet after losing their footing so close to the summit that season, they tumbled all the way to the bottom and landed in a heap. They lost the following year’s county final to Hollymount and didn’t appear in a final again for 16 years.
Twenty years went by in a blink. After losing successive finals in 2010 and 2011, and bombing in the 2012 campaign, Castlebar were primed in 2013. They were also driven on by two decades of hurt.
When they finally got back on top in 2013, it ended the longest drought Castlebar had experienced since the early part of the last century. They made it back to another county final again in 2014 but lost to Ballintubber by a goal.
Their county final destruction of Breaffy in October righted that wrong. Another Connacht title has now handed them the opportunity to finally land that elusive All-Ireland. And, like Ballyboden, create their own unique history.
All-Ireland Club Football Championship semi-finals
Castlebar Mitchels v Crossmaglen Rangers, Feb 13
Ballyboden St Enda's v Clonmel Commercials, Feb 13