Wanderers chairman Keith Herman hailed a “monumental performance” as the Ballyboden club won their first men’s football championship in 52 years last Saturday at O’Toole Park.
“The club is so, so proud of the players, coaches and managers,” he told the Dublin Gazette. “Everyone saw what a monumental performance it took to win on the day and this reflected the efforts the lads put in throughout the year, before lockdown, individually during lockdown and then together again from the end of June.”
In a supreme physical battle, Wanderers’ defence got on top early on with great tackles and intercepts by Eoin Lynagh and Kevin Slattery while Ted O’Byrne kept the physical Ballyfermot full forward quiet in a great first half battle.
Peter Reilly drove forward from half back and linked well with the Wanderers midfield pair of Liam Murphy and Ruaírí Fee who played some good balls in to the full forward line of Darren Delaney, Barry Downey and Keith McGovern.
The Wanderers half forward line of Declan O’Donnell, Stephen Nolan and Eoin Creaner really worked their socks off in defence, stopping Ballyfermot’s dangerous half backs from launching their attacks. At half-time, they ground out a 0-8 to 0-4 lead with the replies coming from a pair from Mark Smith and a Keith Delaney 45.
Wanderers keeper Stephen Murray was called on to make one huge save during the half but Ballyfermot carried the fight into the second half with Smith and Delaney registering again as they got within a point, 0-9 to 0-8.
But Murray’s next big stop was a turning point. From the save, the ball was moved forward initially by O’Byrne who picked up the rebound.
A passing move developed through to midfield sub Shay Butler who passed to Kavanagh and on to Darren Murphy, back to Butler. He exchanged a pass with full forward Delaney as Downey looped around.
His goalbound shot from 20 yards was partially blocked by the full back but had enough power to nestle in the corner putting Wanderers ahead by four.
Another free from Liam Murphy deep in stoppage time sealed victory and left captain James Spears – complete with busted nose – to lift a first championship trophy since 1968!
“Genuine commiserations to Ballyfermot who fought to the end and played some great football,” Herman added.
“We have no doubt they’ll be back again soon and they were a credit to themselves and their club – we were in their position in 2016 and we know how tough a defeat is but they will be back.”
“In a strange way, the absence of a crowd at the venue meant more people got to view the match as it was live-streamed on one of our social media pages.
“It was really great to see Wanderers in Holland, America, Australia and New Zealand, not to mention Kerry, Donegal and Ballyboden watching the match.
“The messages of support and congratulations from past players – including the 1968 winning team – past managers, members abroad and at home, video messages from our nursery and juvenile players really show what this win means to everyone associated with our club.
“This success, coupled with the championship success of the ladies team for the past two years [Junior Championship winners in 2018 and 2019], is showing a real purple patch for Wanderers GAA Club with significant growth across all sections.
“We are a small club with big ambitions and the hardwork and dedication has come to fruition with three years of silverware for the club and with the current structures in place hopefully this will continue.”