Ballyboden St. Enda’s are red-hot favourites heading into this weekend’s Leinster senior club football final but their name’s not on the trophy just yet.
While the inter-county scene may be hopelessly one-sided in Leinster, the same cannot be said for the club game.
In the past two seasons, the Dublin champions’ have succumbed to shock defeats against minnow counties. In 2017, reigning Leinster champions St. Vincent’s fell to a giant-killing in the opening round when Wicklow’s Rathnew turned them over in Aughrim.
History then repeated itself in 2018 when Mullinalaghta of Longford endeared themselves to the nation by defeating Kilmacud Crokes in the provincial decider.
This sentiment is not lost on Ballyboden attacker Ryan Basquel who highlighted the serious quality on show in Leinster while also alluding to the fact that Dublin’s dominance on the inter-county scene has no impact due to each county champion’s winning mentality.
“The quality in Leinster is serious. We played Newtown Blues in the first game and we pulled away at the end but with five minutes left there was only a point or two left in the game.
“Crokes last year lost to the Longford champions and Vincent’s lost to the Wicklow champions so it shows you every county in Leinster has strong competition.
“The thing about it is any county champions that you play, they’re going to be used to winning so they’re going to have a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence too.”
While Ballyboden are the undoubted favourites, Éire Óg come into Sunday’s final brimming with confidence and steeped in history. The three-in-a-row Carlow champions upset the odds by defeating Portlaoise in the semi-final to qualify for their sixth provincial final.
Having won the competition five times in seven years during the nineties, the Carlow champions have a self-confidence seldom seen in teams from the so-called ‘weaker counties’.
“They’re three-in-a-row Carlow champions. They were in the Leinster semi-final last year, and we were long gone out of the Championship when they were in it.
“Mullinalaghta beat them last year, and Mullinalaghta were the Leinster champions. So there’s massive quality there, and we’re under no illusions about that challenge it’s going to be.
“(They’re) five-time Leinster champions. They did an interview after the game on RTÉ and they were talking about their five-time champions in the 1990s. So that obviously still is inbred in the club. They have that self-confidence within themselves. I’m sure they’re going to bring that into Sunday week, as well.”
Basquel is relishing the opportunity to get on the road again with the club and the teammates that he’s grown up with.
And while many will be hoping for another Dublin giant-killing act on Sunday, the ace attacker highlights just how big a deal this game is for the people of Ballyboden who are united in their support of their footballers.
“It’s a great adventure (Leinster club championship). You’re going on a bus with all your teammates and playing in a county ground you probably haven’t played in against a team you probably haven’t played against, it’s a great adventure yeah. And that’s why it’s something that you treasure, you love getting an opportunity to do it.
“The kids coming up to you after the games all wearing Ballyboden jerseys, the schools around the place, people in the shops saying, ‘Best of luck at the weekend’. That’s massive, like. It’s possibly something you wouldn’t get in other years. When you get into Leinster it really ramps up
“It brings everyone together. It’s a big area or whatever, but something like this unites everyone and everyone gets involved. Flags are up everywhere. It’s just great excitement all around.”