Ballinteer St John’s hurlers are celebrating an extraordinary season in which they’ve taken a double promotion.
They rise from both AHL2 and AHL5, pushing the club’s combined Dublin hurling league status to the highest point in its history.
The senior side at St John’s are traditionally a top-tier threat, having been in AHL1 for six of the last ten years, but have been absent from the top level of Dublin hurling for the last two seasons.
Having missed out on the playoffs last year, this year went down to the wire, hinging on the narrowest of final day victories against high-flying Whitehall Colmcille.
The 1-21 to 0-23 win at Marlay Park saw Ballinteer overturn Whitehall by a single point, in turn matching their points total.
That took them to top spot from a four way tie on 18 points with St Oliver Plunkett’s/ER Whitehall and Naomh Fionnbarra with the head-to-head of matches between the sides being the tie-breaker in BSJ’s favour.
For Plunkett’s, incredibly, they ended with the best results on points difference but missed out on the promotion playoffs on the same basis.
Two days later, the AHL5 side repeated the trick with a little more comfort, hammering Whitehall 2-21 to 0-6 at Marlay Park to win a return to intermediate hurling.
They had closed the season with eight consecutive victories to top the table. The double promotion means Ballinteer have senior, intermediate and junior hurling sides simultaneously for the first time in their history.
“It’s huge for the club,” Ballinteer executive member Sean Lane and hurling mainstay explained.
“For developing your players, obviously the best way is to be playing the best teams in the county every week.
“The senior team isn’t a young team but players like Tom Aherne have come out of the minors this year and made a big difference.
“Liam Dunne, the former Wexford hurler, has come in to manage the team this year and really got them playing.
“He’s made a real difference with a lot of players that have been around for six or seven years. For next year, the main aim will be to stick in AHL1, but in the long term, in a few years, we’ll be looking to challenge.”
The AHL5 side might have been utterly convincing in their own victory over the weekend, but their run in has been tough. Matched with an impressive Cuala junior side in the fifth tier, Ballinteer had lost to the Dalkey club early in the season.
But they ultimately got their own back with a run of eight consecutive wins to close out the season overturning Cuala at the top of the table.
Ballinteer dropped only the two points all season, with Cuala dropping three. Lane sees plenty of strength to come in the club.
“There’s a great balance between football and hurling here, and five or six really good young lads coming through. There’s great belief at the club.”