He may have only taken charge of the Dromahair team in the past 12 months and while he may not be taking too much credit for his side’s achievements this year, Dromahair manager Gerry Ballantine has helped the team deliver on the potential and promise that has seen them tipped among the favourites for the Intermediate Championship on a regular basis in recent years.
Commenting on what is different in about Dromahair this year, Gerry was frank in his assessment. “I don’t know did I bring anything new, it’s probably a combination of the younger lads coming through and finally the team getting that bit of luck on the field through the games.
“They’ve been knocking on the door and they’ve been unlucky in the last few years getting to either a quarter final or a semi-final, maybe the luck fell our way this year. I don’t know if there was anything extra special about what we’ve done this year, it’s just the way it’s fallen for us.”
One thing that Dromahair did do differently was that they returned to training much earlier than would be considered the norm with early morning weekend starts common place. This was done with the intention of ensuring everyone we would be fresh throughout the year as Gerry explained, “We started early in the year but we started with the policy of not doing too much too soon.
“We’ve had the policy all year of doing a little bit all the time rather than an awful lot in any one go. The idea behind that is that we would hope to keep lads fresh and that they’re fit for every game. It’s not to try and build towards one game and that’s the mentality we tried to instil, that each game carries it’s own importance rather than a specific target.”
Reflecting on how he feels Dromahair have performed over the course of the year, Gerry stressed the importance of instilling consistency into the Dromahair performances
“I would have said we’ve looked for a performance all year in every game and we’ve been consistent in the performance we’ve delivered. Sometimes it hasn’t been great but we’ve been consistent in our performance and that’s what we’ve asked for, that over the 60 or 65 minuets that we would get a level of commitment and effort that would be consistent.
“We would be happy enough that we have achieved that but we haven’t been hitting the heights in any individual game but we have been much more competitive in the senior league than we were last year and that’s what we aimed to do and that was one of the reasons we went back early - to try and build on our games in the senior league to try and prepare us for the championship and we haven’t done too badly in the league.
As well as leading Dromahair to the Intermediate final, Gerry has also seen the second team cruise through Division four and the strides made by the Junior team have helped to keep the Intermediate players on their toes and Gerry acknowledged training has benefited from having the two teams train alongside one another.
“It was a conscious decision on our part to take over the Junior team as well and to use the two teams as one and we felt the knock on effect of that would be that it would give us greater competition for places for Intermediate team and we got everybody back training earlier and that showed in the league performances of the Junior team and the consequent promotion and they have really been the story of the year so far in Dromahair and please God the Intermediate team can go on and match them and deliver something this year.”
The fact that Dromahair have been impressive in the Gallogly Catering League Division one while Gortletteragh have been competing in Division two, it could be argued that Dromahair are at an advantage but that is not a theory that Gerry agrees with.
“I think in Leitrim there are two or three teams that are probably at senior level, well ahead of other teams and then after that there are a number of senior teams plus a number of intermediate teams who would be on the same level so I don’t think it’s a massive disadvantage to Gortletteragh to be playing in Division 2 because I think the top of Division 2 carries some very strong competition as well.”
Having had the opportunity to cast his eye over Gortletteragh several times in recent weeks Gerry is all to aware of the challenge awaiting his side in Saturday’s final.
“In fairness I’ve been impressed with the way they’ve gone about their business. I watched them last year and they were hugely impressive against Dromahair when they won easily enough in the quarter final in Pairc Sean.
“They had a clear intent last year to go as far as they could in the championship and when they got beaten early in the league basis by Melvin Gaels they came back in the final and they were very competitive for a lot of the final. They lost that and it’s a great sign of a team that they would come back the following year and they go the distance, back to the final again.
“They’ve had tough games in the championship which will stand to them, their semi-final was a ding-dong affair. They were perhaps lucky the first day that they got the chance for an equaliser but the second day they were by far the best team. You really have to admire the way they’ve knuckled down again this year and they’ve come back against all-comers.
“Gortletteragh are very strong up the middle, their central line is extremely talented. They are a big and physical team and everybody kind of knows at this stage that Cathal McCrann kind of runs the show for them and they’ve been impressive all over.”
Gerry is particularly aware that Gortletteragh have a ruthless streak and that is something he feels Dromahair will need to adopt if they are to prevail in the final.
“When they get on top of teams they are very impressive the way they can finish them off which would be perhaps not a factor in our game, we tend to leave teams in the game maybe too long and don’t tend to finish off games as well as we could.”