Burns admits nerves cost College in MacLarnon Final

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ST. Columb’s College manager, Eamon Burns, admitted nerves got the better of his team as they crashed to a disappointing 1-10 to 0-06 defeat against St. Paul’s, Bessbrook in yesterday’s MacLarnon Cup Final in Armagh.

Michael Wilson reports

The defeat was the Buncrana Road School’s fifth in six finals since 2000 and the former All-Ireland winning half-forward conceded he players were ‘gutted’ at the final whistle.

Midfielder Michael Brennan was the College’s only scorer from play with a second half fisted effort and the St. Columb’s manager conceded that was never going to be good enough.

“We’re very disappointed,” explained Burns. “We just didn’t play on the day. Bessbrook were that bit hungrier and stronger than us. We can’t have too many complaints when we didn’t kick a point all day.

“The occasion seemed to get to some of the lads, undoubtedly. I thought after what we had went through in the semi-final against Downpatrick that wouldn’t happen but some were certainly overawed by the occasion. We were making basic handling errors, losing possession and it looked like the nerves got to them.”

Trailing by a point at 0-05 to 1-06, St. Columb’s did have goal chances and a failure to convert meant it was an uphill battle against the strong breeze in the second half.

“We did have our chances but lacked composure when we got them. We had one decent goal chance in the first half and two in the second. Okay, you could say, they were well blocked but with a bit more confidence, the lads maybe could have taken an extra step or went round their man.

“The wind made it difficult in the second half and St. Paul’s had already got quite a fortuitous goal in the first half. It was just a high ball in which caused some indecision between our keeper and defence but the ball was basically deflected in by one of their players.

“We got the rub of the green in the semi-final, there’s no doubt, but Bessbrook had it in the final. They had been defeated in last year’s final and came back very hungry for it.”

With forward like Steelstown’s Mark Brennan and Craigbane’s Ryan Moore, Burns said he found it difficult to explain why his team had found scores difficult to come by.

“With that wind we needed to be going in ahead at half-time. St. Pat’s found it difficult to play against as well in the MacRory Final after our game. It was hard to score against it.

“The players were gutted afterwards, it was a very quiet changing room. There is certainly plenty of ability in the team but they just didn’t play as they could. When none of you’re six forwards score you can’t really complain. The eventual scoreline was perhaps a bit harsh but at that stage we were chasing the game and Bessbrook took advantage.”