The contrast between victory and defeat was clearly illustrated last Sunday as Fergal O’Flaherty admitted that Glencar/Manorhamilton’s pride had been hurt by their County Final loss while Melvin Gaels boss Billy Gavigan said the better team had won on the day.
Billy’s generous tribute to the new League champions didn’t extend to referee Seamus Mulhern as he called for a review of refereeing standards in the county but for Fergal, the satisfaction was all too evident.
“Delighted with the performance,” Fergal told the Observer, “I thought we really performed well today. We were aggressive, intense at the breakdown, we won a lot of primary possession, we used the ball well. We didn’t kick the scores probably with the chances, we could have been more ahead at halftime but we had to dig in, a lot of things happened in the game and you had to respond to them and we responded I think.
“You have to give Melvin Gaels a lot of credit, they don’t give up, they kept on fighting and they came back several times and we had to pull out all the stops to win.”
The hurt of losing the Fenagh Cup played a major factor - “We took one week off after the County Final and then we came back in and trained very hard in the last month, the boys put in a huge effort over the last few weeks. We don’t like getting beaten, we didn’t like the County Final and we knew we had to bounce back straight away.
“The pride was hurt and I think you saw the response today, it was full of intensity and full of passion. Definitely in the County Final, we didn’t perform in the first half and today we did. Today we performed.”
Fergal also paid tribute to his team’s character in a tough game, particularly the response to the sending off of Adrian Croal - “I thought we were cruising and were playing good football up to that point.
“It was a volatile game, there were a lot of yellow cards and somebody was going to get sent off at some point and I tried to emphasise for fellows to be disciplined but it didn’t happen that way. It did turn the game their way but we hung on and we managed to get a point to go ahead there at the end.”
Melvin Gaels Billy Gavigan congratulated Glencar/Manorhamilton but was less complimentary about the performance of referee Seamus Mulhern - “Disappointed alright but they were the better team on the day. We struggled, we only played in patches. We missed a few chances, they should have had the game over at halftime.
“We were in the game until the last five minutes and we could have got another draw but it just didn’t happen and well done to Manorhamilton. They were up for it, they felt bad about the last day, not turning up. They wanted it more than we did.
“We’ve lost our momentum, we’ve so many players away at the moment, it is hard to get them together. We’ve done ourselves proud this year, we have the county championship and they have the League so it is good that north Leitrim is holding it together.”
On the subject of the referee, Billy said “The refereeing was bad, I can’t say anything different. The time wasted was unbelievable, you can quote that if you want. When the refereeing is that standard in Leitrim, it is no wonder that Leitrim football is so bad. Not to take anything away from Manorhamilton winning, the standard of refereeing needs to be picked up, it is that bad.”
The Bundoran native agreed that the defeat would provide motivation for next year but was not so definite if he would be still involved - “It will add motivation for next year, hopefully most of them will be around alright. I’m not sure about myself, it is very hard work at this age, at 61, it is a lot of hard work and graft.”
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