Ballyboden Vs St Sylvester’s : Ladies’ Semi-final Report
St Sylvester 0-12 – 3-11 Ballyboden
On a windy Wednesday evening in Broomfield, Ballyboden booked their place in the Dublin Ladies Senior Championship final, against Group A winners, St Sylvester’s.
Whereas Sylvester’s missed a number of players who had seen them top group A, Ballyboden saw some key players return since the group stages, where they finished second to Foxrock-Cabinteely.
From early on, even playing directly into the stiff breeze, you got the feeling that Ballyboden looked the more likely to prevail.
With Elain McGrath, wearing number 15 but playing as a sweeper, Ballyboden’s seven versus six in their defence deprived Sylvesters’ attack the type of space which Ballyboden’s five versus six attack enjoyed, particularly when Boden drove at pace from the half back line.
And whereas Sylvesters’ full back line found themselves improvising a sweeper, it was perfectly clear from the early stages that Boden’s McGrath was well acquainted with the position. Her impeccable positioning would thwart Sylvesters’ attacks throughout the first half as the Malahide girls had the wind in their backs.
Rarely did Dublin stalwart Sinéad Aherne get the opportunity have direct ball played in front of her with the methodical positioning of McGrath, and when she did get the ball, typically, she was double-teamed.
Credit to Boden full back Rachel Ruddy. While McGrath’s positioning meant that opportunities for Aherne to attack “man-on-man” were limited, on the occasions Ruddy was isolated, Aherne got nothing easy.
Despite having an extra player at the back, Sylvester’s initially had trouble clearing their lines from kick-outs, as Emily Flannagan and Simmone Reilly scored directly off the Sylvester’s kick-out after Reilly had opened the scoring with a free to lead by 0-3 to no score after five minutes.
Sylvester’s pulled two back through Aherne, one from a free, before a typically driving run from Boden centre back, Sinéad Burke, saw corner forward, Reilly, on the end of the move and she finished low to the net.
Boden added another point before, Sly’s began to win their fair share of kick-outs and score three on the trot to reduce the gap to two, only to be rocked when keeper, Orla Moynihan, could only palm a high ball down, for Boden wing back, Deirean Mullally, to net the rebound.
The game was taking on a frantic pace as both sides looked to get the kick-outs off quickly.
Syls began to enjoy a small majority of possession, but the Boden defence was formidable. Nicole Owens runs from centre forward were incessant but with the stellar marking of Burke to deal with, and McGrath sitting behind her, the damage which she looked like she could potentially do was somewhat limited.
Kate Sullivan also looked menacing from wing forward when she got on the ball, but the “man-marking” of Avril Flood was limiting the amount of possession she could get.
Apart from their effective sweeper, the key to Boden’s supremacy was the manner in which they attacked powerfully from the half back line and midfield.
Ciara Ruddy, Dee Lawless and Maria Hoey would make cutting runs from deep throughout, but it was Mullally who unleashed the most devastating runs from wing back. In the 23rd minute her driving run cut through the Sylvester’s rear-guard and set up Lawless to score Boden’s third goal.
The sides would trade points before the break to leave Boden 3-6 to 0-8 to the good at half time having played into the wind.
Syl’s had he the misfortune of seeing the wind pick up significantly by the start of the second half, and the up-hill task they faced became apparent when what looked like a technically perfectly struck free by Ahere from just inside thirty metres swung back in the breeze and dropped short.
It would be one of a number of efforts that wouldn’t have the legs to get over the bar against the wind in the second half.
Syl’s would own the ball for much of the half with impressive runs and possession play from midfielders, Aine McDonnell and Niamh McEvoy, but just couldn’t break down the stellar Boden defence.
With the wind in their backs, and just two defenders on two attackers at the other end, it looked inevitable that Boden would score goals on the break, but it never transpired.
Trailing by 3-9 to 0-10 with ten minutes remaining, a mazey run by Owens through Boden’s compact and efficient defence saw her shoot from near the edge of the box, but what represented their last chance at redemption, saw the ball fly just over the bar.
A couple of points from Boden put the game beyond doubt as they ran out deserving winners by 2-11 to 0-12 to reach their first final since their period of domination ended in 2011.
St Sylvesters : Orla Moynihan, Carol Hazely, Aimee Hazely, Amy Phelan, Emma Lynch, Ciara Lynch, Ann Clarke, Áine McDonnell, Niamh McEvoy, Kate Sullivan, Nicole Owens, Danielle Lawless, Gráinne McGinty. Sinéad Aherne, Rebecca Hanratty Subs : Ellen Cooney
Ballyboden : Liz Cohalan, Aoife Clarke, Rachel Ruddy, Rachel Nugent, Avril Flood, Ciara Ruddy, Deirean Mullany, Dee Lawless, Maria Hoey, Máiréad Luttrell, Sinéad Burke, Emily Flanagan, Simmone Reilly, Katie Murphy, Elaine McGrath Subs : Claire Kirwan
Scorers : Sylvesters : S Aherne 0-6 (4 frees), N Owens 0-4, K Sullivan 0-2. Ballyboden : S Rielly 1-5 (0-4 frees), D Mullany 1-0, D Lawless 1-0, E Flanagan 0-2, S Burke 0-1, M Hoey 0-1, K Murphy 0-1, C Kirwan 0-1
By Stephen O’Meara
Featured image courtesy of Kieron O’Brien