Ballinamore's Paddy Connaughton is prevented from getting his shot away by the Glencar/Manor defence. Photo by Therese Foy
The end of their 2017 Championship voyage came with different emotions but there was the same sense of loss and disappointment in the St. Mary’s and Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s camps last Saturday evening.
The unbeaten Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s saw their impressive championship run come to a crashing halt against Glencar/Manorhamilton in the first game in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada and manager Paul Prior didn’t try to sugar coat the disappointment in his camp.
“There will be huge disappointment because we really believed we could beat Manorhamilton and make it to the final ,” Paul told the Observer, “but they are a really good side and our lads just have to keep working hard and hopefully, this will stand us in good stead in the future.
“I’ve no doubt that they will be back, I have nothing but good things to say about them fellows, they’ve given huge commitment, they’ve been on the road for two years now and given us absolutely everything so I’ve nothing but good things to say about them.”
A young and positive manager, Paul believes his Sean O’Heslin’s charges will learn valuable lessons from the defeat - “Disappointed alright but we have to learn from it, it is a really big jump up, Manor are a really good team, we just have to learn from it and come back strong next year.”
Asked if the favourites tag had got to his team, Paul thoughtful response was “I don’t think so, it is a big leap but we have to take it on the chin and push on again next year and I’ve no doubt that they will be back.”
Looking back on the game, Paul felt that his team were mounting a late charge when caught out by a sucker punch - “Well, it was a horrible goal to give away. We thought the lead wasn’t that much, five or six points with a big breeze behind us, we felt we could still come back into it but that was a sucker punch that knocked the life out of us.
“Unlucky but those are the things that happen and we just have to move on.”
The disappointment in the St. Mary’s camp was much more raw after their narrow loss to League champions Mohill, so much so that manager Ciaran Reynolds was initially unable to talk to the Observer when approached after the match.
When he did gather his thoughts, Ciaran was disappointed with the way the game ended prematurely - “We thought we’d get a draw, we thought there was another minute to play. Why Mick blew it up when we were on the attack, only Mick knows that.
“But look, I can’t fault my lads, we gave it everything there in the second half. We knew we didn’t turn up in the Quarter-Final, we were lucky to get over the line in that game but I can’t fault the lads, they gave it everything out there today, everything.”
Keith Beirne’s goal ultimately undid a lot of good St. Mary’s in the first half - “The goal did the damage, it was definitely against the run of play. We thought our back had it but it just hopped to them, I thought a few times there they got the lucky break but they are there and we’re gone again.”
And Ciaran finished by praising the resilience and commitment of his St. Mary’s players - “Every boy stood up there today, we had leaders in every line of the field, I know these lads, I knew they weren’t going to let us down, everyone was writing us off before the game and I suppose the media all year was writing us off.
“We probably punched above our weight but we knew what our lads were capable of, we knew all along that the lads were capable of what they showed today.”