By Ian Cooney
After watching his Kilbride team win the 2016 and 2017 county finals with ease, scoring 12-20 in the process, Ollie Lennon had a much more nerve-wracking afternoon in Ballyleague, watching his players come through a ferociously tough battle against Clann na nGael.
It was clear from the early stages that there would be no six-goal tallies in this contest, and by the time half time rolled around with just three points scored between the two teams, Lennon could have been forgiven for feeling a little bit of trepidation at the prospect of a tight finish.
Instead he was delighted to have watched his team take a lead into the dressing room after playing into the wind for the opening 30 minutes, and felt confident that his players would put distance between the sides once the game resumed.
“It wasn’t pretty out there today from a spectator’s point of view but at the end of the day the result was all that mattered,” he told the Roscommon Herald.
“We were playing against a very stiff breeze, we were delighted to go in 0-2 to 0-1 in front at half time. We felt we played well, we didn’t need to change too much. We said that we just needed to play the football that we’re capable of and for ten minutes we did, and then went back again and retreated, but thankfully we held out”.
“We defended deep and we defended well, and the whole thing playing against that breeze was to make sure that we were still in the game at half time,” he explained.
Lennon, himself a native of the Clann na nGael club, expected a big game from the underdogs and is now hopeful that the competitiveness of this tie will stand to his club as they prepare to take on Kilkerrin-Clonberne of Galway in the Connacht club championship.
“In two weeks’ time we’ll play Kilkerrin-Clonberne. They had a big win in Galway and that’s their sixth county title in a row, so that’ll be a huge challenge. But hopefully we’ll make some amends for our defeat to Carnacon last year,” he added.
“We knew deep down that Clann na nGael were always likely to give us a really tough test and now that we’ve got through it, it’s great preparation for two weeks’ time. We know that when we’re in a dogfight we can push through it, and maybe the freedom of a Connacht championship game against the Galway champions, when we’ll be the underdogs, might give us a chance to go out and play with a little bit more freedom and go back to the way we know we can play,” he remarked.
However just as Kilbride will be hopeful of building on their defeat to Carnacon last year and learning from that experience, Clann na nGael manager Joe Fallon said that he’ll be hoping his players can also learn from this defeat and come back stronger in 2019.
“At the start of the year we looked at Kilbride, we wanted their county title, we did our damnedest, we nearly got there but just fell short,” was his immediate reaction to his team’s narrow defeat. “Onwards to next year, and best of luck to Kilbride in the Connacht championship now.
“Kilbride proved why they’re the county champions. They were on top in that third quarter like they’ve been doing all year. They got the goals at vital stages, we had chances and didn’t take them and you have to take your chances when you’re trying to beat a team as good as Kilbride. The girls kept going for the full hour and that’s all we could ask for.
“They had that little bit more experience, the average age of our team is 22, so the aim is to get back early in the new year, to train that little bit harder, and this time next year we’ll be in a better position to bring home some silverware,” declared Clann’s amiable custodian.