We weren’t up to scratch, insists victorious Crossmaglen boss McEntee
It might have been a historic achievement, but Crossmaglen manager Tony McEntee still wore that frank, unconvinced mask of his when asked to sum up the final.
It was put to him that his prediction earlier in the week came true — that Kilcoo would play right until the final whistle — and he responded with an answer that suggests that a Christmas of big feeding and merriment might not be on the cards in Crossmaglen.
“Yeah, but I didn’t think that we would only play for 15 minutes,” he replied.
“In the first half we played for 15 minutes then we stopped completely. The last 15 minutes of the first half we were showboating and messing and throwing the ball around and not being clinical up front.”
As a matter of fact, Cross did not score between minutes 18 and 49, over half an hour of football without raising a flag.
After a nervous start characterised by some horrible wides and crazy option-taking, Kilcoo's defensive structures began to frustrate Cross.
As the evening became more uncomfortable for the champions, they had to summon the spirit of Cross teams past to grind out the win.
“We thought at half-time that we would have them corrected and that we would get them going again,” explained the Cross manager.
“We got the first point of the second half then they lifted the tempo and after that they threw everything they had at it.
“They came back and got two or three scores in a row and made life difficult for us.
“Obviously we had a man sent off, then a second man sent off, so we just had to fight it out.”
He continue: “It’s nice to know that you can play good football for a while, then scrappy football for a while and still pull through.”
Kilcoo boss Jim McCorry knew exactly where the winning and losing of the game lay.
“I think we gave an awful lot of ball away, especially in the first half. The goal that they got came from an easy turnover ball. But football is littered with ‘if onlys’.
“I thought the heart the guys showed was tremendous.
“It seems to be when there is a bit of adversity facing this team that they play better,” he added.
Encouraged by their strong display once they found their feet, he continued: “We keep telling these guys that they don’t realize how good they are. That is bound to give them a bit of heart for coming back to Down next year.
“Overall we didn’t lose 15 battles out there. There are guys who can be proud of themselves. There are guys who won their battle from start to finish. There are others who came good in the second half and won their battles. But against Crossmaglen you need to win 10 battles for two halves. Unfortunately those first 10 minutes was a killer period for us.”
On the matter of the alleged racial abuse meted out to Aaron Cunningham, Tony McEntee commented: “We won’t be making any issue of it. It’s gone. If the linesman and the referee aren’t willing to deal with it, then we’ll not be making an issue of it.
“I can’t speak for the club at the minute. But it will not be in our interests to raise anything after this. If the linesman who was standing beside Aaron at the time isn’t willing to stand up and draw the referee’s attention to it, then we certainly won’t be.”
When asked if he would be disappointed if Cunningham was abused, McCorry added: “Absolutely. If that is true, then that is something that has got absolutely nothing to do with Kilcoo and what Kilcoo do. I haven’t heard that. But if that is the case then the club will deal with it.”