NA MAGHA manager Dee Doherty described Sunday’s Ulster Junior Championship semi-final defeat to Burt as the toughest of his hurling career.
Michael Wilson reports
Doherty’s team had been written off as cannon fodder in what is their first Ulster Championship campaign but produced a gutsy performance to make the Donegal champions fight hard for their place in the final against Antrim’s kickhams Creggan.
“I’m extremely disappointed. Our boys came out and played to a level in a first half that maybe they couldn’t reach again, I don’t know, but they left everything out on that pitch so what could you do,” lamented Doherty.
“We were definitely the better team in the first half but maybe ran out of steam a bit in the second. Burt stepped up to the plate and produced the goods but we tried everything. We brought Alan Grant out to the middle, dropped Breandán (Quigley) out to try and win some ball in the middle of the field, just nothing worked for us in the second half. We only got two points in the second half and points win games.”
Both Quigley and Grant put in sterling performances but the Na Magha boss did not want to single out any players after a display which saw every one of his men give 100 per cent.
“Alan did a great job in the back line but to me there were 15 lads and every one of them played out of their skin. Breandán had a good game in the forward line and young Tamar Douban stepped up to the plate. It’s his first year in senior hurling and hopefully that match is going to make all our young players stronger, bring them back stronger for next year and who knows where that could lead us.
“It is hard to take when you are up at half-time and you think you’re going well. You do all the these things you can to try and finish the game off and when it goes against you, it’s tough. That is probably the hardest game I’ve lost since I have been involved in hurling.”
Despite the disappointment, Doherty said his players could be proud of a season which brought them the Derry intermediate title and two Ulster Championship victories.
“There are a lot of positives for us to take. That is probably the best game of hurling this team has played in a couple of years and if that’s where they are now, maybe in year they will be a step above.
“There are a few young lads coming through from the Minor squad who will be a good addition to that squad. There was a lot of people expecting the match would be over at half-time with Burt cruising but we stuck it up to them. Burt knew they were in a game and our boys fought hard.
“Hopefully now they will have a look at it and say, ‘if we can get to that level this year, why not next year or maybe go higher again’. That could drive them on
“If someone had told me at the start of the year, we would win an Intermediate Championship and even one game in Ulster we would have been happy. We’ve got to an Ulster semi-final, gave it a hell of a go and we’ll put it down as a successful year and try to build on it next season,” he added.