CHAMPIONSHIP Finals must feel a little like buses to Na Magha. You wait all season for one and two come along at the same time!
Michael Wilson reports
The Ballyarnett men made club history on Sunday in Ballinascreen when they comfortably defeated Strabane Shamrocks 5-10 to 2-12 in the Ulster Junior semi-final to set up a showdown with Down champions, Bredagh - a first provincial decider for the city club, not that they have much time to bask in the glow of victory.
This weekend Dee Doherty’s men face Eoghan Rua in the Derry Intermediate Final in Kevin Lynch Park, Dungiven, just one week before the meeting against Bredagh. Having spent most of the season trying to fill gaps in their fixture list, it is quite a culture change but Doherty couldn’t be happier about it.
“We are delighted, the Strabane match was comfortable enough in the end up,” explained the Na Magha manager whose side led 3-05 to 1-04 at the interval.
“To be fair we knew we had the beating of Strabane if we got our own game right and that’s how it worked out. The thing with us is that sometimes we can take 15 or 20 minutes to play our way into a game but on Sunday we hit the ground running. We had a very good start, something we had talked about in the changing room.
“At half-time I knew we had the winning of the game but the important thing was not to let our performance level drop. You cannot afford to become complacent in an Ulster Championship game. The way we looked at it was if we could score 3-05 in the first half, then that’s what you should be aiming for in the second and we only missed out on that target by a goal.”
Goals from Tamar Duban (2), Declan Foley, Darrell Connolly and Dairmuid Shields paved the way for Sunday’s win and Doherty was particularly pleased to see his young players amongst the scorers once again.
“Tamar (2-02) and Declan (1-03) were superb and took their scores very well. They are a great example of two young players who have got a chance and taken it with both hands.
“In the last couple of games we’ve played, the movement of the whole forward line has been superb. They are linking well and making some great runs but our defence was outstanding as well. A couple of papers had tipped Strabane on the basis that we concede too many scores but if you look at the last couple of games no team has been scoring too many from open play. Even on Sunday, most of the Strabane scores came from frees.”
Doherty said he was delighted with the attitude of his players after Sunday’s victory.
“Almost straight away after the game the lads were back in the changing room saying nothing had been won. Yes, we are in the Ulster Final but it will not count if we don’t go on and win it so it’s great to see the players were right down to earth straight away.
“We have Eoghan Rua this weekend and we know they will be a step up from Strabane. We have now had three tough Championship games in succession and it’s starting to take its toll in terms of a few injuries but if someone picks up an injury there is someone else more than able to come in. Tamar and Deccy got their opportunity because of injuries to senior players and they have taken it very well. So well in fact I have not been able to put the senior players back in. “It can be a headache but it is a nice one for a manager to have,” he added.