Ballyboughal Edge out Curraha in Leinster Intermediate semi-final
Ballyboughal 3-7 – 0-15 Curraha
Ballyboughal’s superb form of late continued as they edged out Meath’s Curraha in the Leinster Intermediate football semi-final.
On a bitterly cold day, the home side held off a Curraha side who undoubtedly had the lion’s share of scoring chances throughout, but for all of their possession in the Boughl half, they just couldn’t break down a resilient home defence enough.
By contrast, on the handful of occasions where Boughal got a sniff of goal they were ruthless with Ben Callanan, Gerry Seaver and Jack Ryan all netting.
Throughout, the Boughal full back line were key as corner backs, Ciarán McGinley and Gavin Dungan gave typically stellar man marking performances on dangerous looking inside forwards.
Undoubtedly, however, the key man was full back, Niall McGelligot. Just as Ger Brennan is for Vincent’s, he was the key game controller, who used his eye for the game to serve as the fulcrum around which Boughal’s defence constantly re-shaped to use their extra defender with maximum efficiency.
With Curraha applying a roving full forward, Boughal were typically left with one spare at the back which McGelligot managed masterfully. He pushed high and pressed the ball when he saw another in position to cover the hole, covered the hole meticulously when the need arose, and man-marked when necessary.
His application of the position set the tone for the game – a lot of Curraha possession outside of the front line of the Boughal zonal defence, but without the capacity to consistently break down a well structured and disciplined rearguard.
In a local derby of sorts, the Meath men had plenty of threats up front, none more so that county senior, James McAntee, at wing forward. While his influence was noteworthy, Johnathon Rooney’s man-marking was equally noteworthy, significantly limiting the potential damage, all the while chipping in with a superb first half point.
The clever positioning of Rooney, as well as his cousin, Boughal’s other wing back, Tony Rooney, were also key, as they constantly created width at the right time, allowing for key penetrative runs through the centre from centre back, Corman Flynn, as well as the Brian Dooher-like wing forward, Ciarán Wynne.
The first half injury of Cathal Flynn at midfield looked ominous for Boughal, but the experience of Richie Downey steered the ship at midfield, aided by Keith Lynch working tirelessly in the middle third from number 10.
If each sides’ tactics could be summarised as much as possible in a single sentence, it was Cuarraha’s strategy to get off the short and, ideally, quick kick-out, and Boughal’s to work the ball into positions to hit the giant at full forward, Martin Provizors, with long ball.
However, from start to finish Curraha scored possibly a point or two at most from this source, and certainly made a net loss if we calculate scores gained off initial possession on the short kick-out weighed up against scores conceded on the first turnover.
On the other hand, from three high balls sent onto Provizar’s head in the first half, Boughal earned a scored a free and a scored 45, the 45 superbly struck by Seaver. Suffice to say, it was literally a tall order for Curragha’s full back, Niall Murphy, standing significantly more than a head shorter, to stop the big man.
For all of that, however, it was a slick move which saw Callanan go one on one with Curraha keeper, Luke McCarthy and net, to give Boughal the impetus again, just as Curraha were coming to look more dominant.
By contrast, when Curraha had a similar chance at the far end, Davey Downey, in goal, was equal to it.
Boughal would lead by two points, 1-4 to 0-5 at half time.
Once again, despite threatening that they might, Curraha failed to fully get on top of the Boughal defence for the first ten minutes of the second half.
When they finally looked like they were getting the upper hand, the tight rope that is the short kick-out hit them in the face. The classic statistical loser, the kick-out to the half back line (there will be an article dedicated to this specific topic on Sportsjoe tomorrow night), saw Boughal turn them over and Seaver netted ruthlessly to give Boughal the breathing space they required.
And again, with in and around ten minutes remaining, it looked like Curraha were finally getting the wind in their sails, just a point down – only to be hit with a sucker punch off the back of three pieces of individual class.
First, Wynne, from a pressured situation around the centre back position, weaved a bit of space and picked out Seaver thirty yards up field. Seaver took on his man around the half way line and played as inch-perfect a 40/50 yard pass as you’re ever likely to see, over Jack Ryan’s man’s head, perfectly into his path to put him clear on goal without breaking his stride. With the keeper advancing, Ryan netted perfectly putting Boughal four in front.
The only thing more breath-taking than Seaver’s pass was the fact that he’s right footed – and he kicked the pass with his left!
When centre forward, John Rogers, hit a superb long range point a minute later, Boughal looked set for the home straight.
Credit to Curraha as they pressed high and hunted in packs for the remainder, bringing it back to a point with two minutes of injury time still to play.
Boughal’s nerve held, however, as they played a precarious possession game in the final stages which left supporters watching nervously, but, crucially, they didn’t cough up possession.
They would run out victors, 3-7 to 0-15 and will now face the Wexford champions away in the final as they seek to become the first Dublin side to win the Leinster Intermediate Championship since their neighbours, Fingal Ravens, managed it in 2007.
After St. Olaf’s in 213, they are only the second Dublin side to reach the final since Ravens achieved this feat.
By Stephen O’Meara