The failure to convert chances in the first half, particularly when the game was going against them, was identified by St. Nathy’s selector Paul Kivlehan as a key factor in Saturday’s defeat when he spoke to the Roscommon Herald after the Ballaghaderreen school’s Croke Park contest.
“We just didn’t get the bounce of the ball today. The signs were there right from the start when Cookstown were two points up and Kuba Callaghan had a chance for a goal and it didn’t happen for him,” he said ruefully.
“Maybe if he got his shot away cleanly and got the goal, the game might have panned out differently but it just didn’t happen,” he continued.
Missed frees were also a factor, and Fr. Kivlehan suggested that a little bit more patience in those situations would have gone a long way.
“We had two frees down at the Hill 16 end, both right out near the sideline and one after the other,” he recalled.
“We were trying to force scores rather than working ourselves in to get a more simple score that might have got us started. As the half went on, the longer we went on looking for a score, it was getting that bit more difficult to get into the game.
“We were panicking a little, possibly forcing it a little rather than letting it happen. But that might be just the experience of coming here to play a big game. It has happened to more seasoned players that playing up here has got to them. It has still been a great opportunity for the lads to come here, and that’s a positive for them today,” he explained.
While heartbreak was the overwhelming emotion all around him, with visibly devastated players filing into the dressing room to reflect on an afternoon where they failed to put their best foot forward, the Coolaney/Mullinabreena native was eager that the success they had enjoyed up to this game wasn’t lost in the pain of this ten-point defeat.
“We’ve had a great year. We won the Connacht B League and Championship trophies. We’ve been unbeaten until today and they’ve got to come up to Croke Park. Regardless of the result today, it has to be said that as a management team we’re proud of these lads. I know that the school community and the town of Ballaghaderreen is also (proud of them), and that’s the main thing — the support today shows how proud everyone is of their achievements”.
Fr. Paul also highlighted the way the match concluded as evidence of the personal qualities of this young team, qualities that were in evidence all year long in the way they salvaged results from difficult situations time and again.
“We finished the game strongly. The game was over as a contest but you have to say that they didn’t throw in the towel. They kept going and put on 1-2 at the end. That’s a mark of their own character. It would have been easy to say that today wasn’t their day but that’s not the spirit of this team and they kept going until the end.
“We can’t ask any more of them, they have given their best and unfortunately it came up short. But that’s sport. We saw the other side of it the last day. We felt what it was like to come out on the right side of a big game, but now we have to deal with the other side of that.
“But the lads will get on with it, they’ll go away now to play with their clubs and counties, and hopefully the lads that come back in September will be happy to get back into action with us and we’ll have another crack at it next year and the rub of the green might be with us then,” he concluded.