Cavan Gaels manager Mick O’Dowd may have been left to reflect on the ‘what might have beens’ from his team’s AIB Ulster Club semi-final defeat by Ballinderry but this has not obscured his outlook on the forthcoming decider between the Derry champions and reigning provincial title-holders Crossmaglen Rangers.
“I honestly feel that Ballinderry are a great side who can go on and win the Ulster crown. They have a lot of good players in there and Collie Devlin and Raymond Wilkinson did a lot of damage,” stated O’Dowd.
Ballinderry had a ten-point winning margin over the Gaels but O’Dowd can ruefully point to factors which undoubtedly influenced the outcome.
“We had to make a change before the start when Cormac Nelligan was ruled out, we lost Seanie Johnston after just eleven minutes with a hamstring problem just after he scored an absolutely magnificent point and Paul O’Donnell also had to go off,” mused O’Dowd.
“Had they remained on, and had the ball fell more kindly for Martin Dunne when he had a chance of a goal, who knows what might have happened.”
“We had to go with what was in front of us. I think we ended up with about five Minor players in our side and obviously they would not have had the experience to cope with Ballinderry. We were trying to plug holes here and there but when they put us to the sword we had no answer to them,” admitted O’Dowd.
He is convinced that Crossmaglen Rangers will represent a huge test for Ballinderry but has faith in the Derry team’s ability to last the pace.
“While I don’t think Rangers will concede as much as my side did and won’t get caught up the field like we did, they will still find it awkward against Ballinderry who, I feel, are a magnificent side,” said O’Dowd.
"The final will be a different type of game to our semi-final. It will be a lot more physical for a start.
"Crossmaglen play from deep and they’ll win a lot of frees up front. And as we all know they have the players to take advantage of this. It’s really the final that all the pundits predicted."
Meanwhile, St Eunan’s manager Eamonn O’Boyle argued after the defeat to Crossmaglen Rangers that his side should have had a score that was ruled by match referee Joe McQuillan.
His team’s best forward Ross Wherity thought he had reduced the game’s difference to a point in the 57th minute, but after McQuillan had consulted with a waving linesman he ruled out an umpire’s decision and signalled the effort wide.
O’Boyle hit out afterwards, bemused by how a linesman’s view on a score can be heard while standing along the sidelines, as far away from the action as managers or subs.
"What can I say? I felt we got and I have never seen in my life a linesman to disallow a point before. I thought it was crazy, a crazy way to go," said O’Boyle.
"It took him so long to react to it. Did he react to the bench? Did he react to the crowd? I don’t know. The umpire and the referee gave it, he disallowed it. It was at a crucial stage in the game too, that was what was so galling”