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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 26 March, 2019
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A closer look: Ballyboden St Enda's has heart and soul to match 'superclub' status

The Dublin and Leinster champions will be hosting plenty of visitors from Mayo this week.

Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

As part of our build-up towards this year’s All-Ireland finals on St Patrick’s Day, we take a closer look at the clubs involved. First up are Dublin football champions Ballyboden St Enda’s.

FROM THE OUTSIDE looking in Ballyboden St Enda’s is just another of Dublin’s so-called ‘superclubs’, with so many fishing lines that they’re surely bound to land the big one eventually.

But these big clubs aren’t the cold, industrial environments that many perceive them to be. And playing numbers don’t win you anything if they aren’t managed properly. Ballyboden St Enda’s has a soul like any rural parish, and at the heart of this, as always, are the volunteers, coaches and administrators.

And it is those people, above all others, who have overseen the remarkable rise of this sleeping giant in Dublin’s south side, according to a club spokesperson.

The Knocklyon club has won eight senior county titles in the past 10 years, six in hurling (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013) and two in football (2009 and 2015). And that’s not by accident nor down to their sheer size.

“The buzz is unbelievable at the moment,” the spokesperson told The42.

“But what I feel is that real club people have come to the fore in the last few months.

“And real club players have come to the fore too. Take, for example, Conal Keaney, Shane Durkin and Simon Lambert.

All three of them were always tagged as hurlers but I always tagged them as club men, and they’ve proven that now.

Famous sons of yesteryear to wear the blue and white include Jim and Brian Stynes. Irish golfers Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley also learned their GAA skills in these parts.

Ballyboden was once thought of as a hurling club but the reality is that St Enda’s have been producing competitive underage teams across both codes for a long time.

Priority

GAA clubs, by their nature, can be fractious organisations with arguments over codes, players and even gym schedules just a few of the regular issues that can crop up. But in Ballyboden, there is no notion of one sport taking preference over the other, the club itself is the priority.

There was a group set up in the club to protect that ethos; the committee does its utmost to quieten any whispers of unrest.

The academy is split evenly between both codes and all kids are actively encouraged to play both games and, according to the club spokesman, that has been vital for nurturing the likes of Dublin stars Durkin and Keaney, who don’t come from hurling backgrounds.

The code may change but the hunger for success stays the same.

Football

Ballyboden St Enda's manager Andy McEntee. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Ballyboden may have won the county title in 2009 but the club spokesman revealed that football was at a low ebb only a couple of years later.

And now, under the guidance of Meath man Andy McEntee, a younger brother of former Royal star Gerry, Ballyboden are one win away from securing the highest honour in the club game.

“Four years ago the football section in the club was struggling. A guy named Ger Flaherty took over as chair of the football committee.

“And he set about putting structure on adult football and focused on strength and conditioning; from minors up.

“Then we brought in Conor Deegan from Kilmacud Crokes and County Down three years ago and he brought it up a notch. He did a wonderful job, he brought a new aura around the place.

But Andy McEntee came in and upped it another level. And Andy comes from a very strong GAA family and a very strong GAA county.

“He’s a super guy and he will go further. We were delighted to have him and hopefully we will have him for another few years.”

Running such a big club, Ballyboden currently fields 70 teams in football, hurling, camogie and ladies football, is not for the faint-hearted. It requires excellent leadership, organisational skills and strong characters.

“Brendan Moran is the chairman of the club, brother of former Dublin, Ireland and Manchester United star Kevin Moran. He’s hands-on and keeps a close eye on all the codes.

“There are plenty of big personalities and that rubs off on the younger guys. Andy (McEntee), in particular, brought in a bit of steel from County Meath. The lads knew he was very serious from day one.”

Big day

The hard work has been done, the bunting orders have doubled and the champagne is on ice. Now it’s all about celebrating the big day.

Ballyboden filled 12 buses with supporters for their semi-final win, after extra time, against Clonmel Commercials and they expect to pack four more on St Patrick’s Day.

“This is a celebration. There is no more fundraising.

“We’ve done serious fundraising for the past number weeks. We have doubled our lotto numbers. They’re back to the best levels ever.

And we’re now focused on celebrating the occasion. The unsung heroes deserve recognition.

As is the case of many Dublin clubs, the fabric is a mixed bag of passionate GAA families from across the island of Ireland. And it just so happens that a fair chunk of those connections in Ballyboden come from Mayo, the home of their opponents on Thursday, Castlebar Mitchels.

 

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About the author:

Alan Waldron

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