As the final whistle sounded at Cusack Park in Mullingar, Michael Darragh Macauley's first thoughts weren't of the provincial final to come.

Instead, speaking to RTÉ Radio 1's Sunday Sport, the Ballyboden St Enda's man paid eloquent tribute to a former team-mate, who passed away suddenly just 10 days before the Leinster semi-final win over Garrycastle.

"What was on my mind more than anything today was the loss of Dermot Manley," the seven-time All-Ireland winner said.

"We lost Digger last week and nothing is going to be the same again. We're looking at everything differently.

"You just don't know, in life and in sport, what's going to happen next.

"Dermot was an unbelievable human. He played with this team, was on Championship-winning teams with this club.

"He was one of the best humans I ever met and if we had a few more like him, the world would be a better place."

Ballyboden will meet Éire Óg in the Leinster final and, ominously for the Carlow champions, Macauley feels the Dublin side have regained the strength in depth that took them to the All-Ireland club title in 2016.

"Ballyboden will probably always put out a strong 15 and has done so for the last 10 years," he said.

"What we haven't had is a strong 20 or 25 to push lads in training. This is the probably the strongest we've had it, even since 2015-16. There’s a serious group of lads there."