‘When they play like that, they are a hard team to stop’

GAA news

Drumlane are through to their first-ever Ulster Club championship final, having put in a performance that manager Martin Dunne was understandably pleased with.

“Delighted with the performance there today now. We really showed what we were about today for about 40 or 45 minutes, we really clicked into gear. It’s great to see the lads, for the effort they’ve put in, to go out and express themselves on such a big occasion and play the football that they did, it was great to see,” Dunne stated.

Having been used to watching his side just getting over the line in the final moments of their last four games, the Cavan Gaels clubman was happy to be able to relax in the closing stages of Sunday’s Ulster semi-final.

“It’s nice when you’re in that position. Those tight games are hard to watch, it’s nailbiting stuff but when you know your team is playing well and they’re playing the way you’re asking them to play and the way they’re being coached and they go out and carry that out, it’s great. You see them and the ability that they have, that’s why we’re asking them to do it. We know what talent is there so when they turn up and play like that, they’re a hard team to stop.”

With a change of tactics from their quarter final win over Clones, Drumlane scored a goal and six points either side of half-time which put the game to bed early.

“We decided last week when we got through that we were going to go man-to-man this week. It was a semi-final, you only get one chance and we weren’t going to play with lads sitting back so we were going to go for it and make sure that we backed ourselves that we were going to get to the Ulster final.

“That first five or ten minutes, we were probably sussing each other out. Lads probably weren’t used to going man-for-man at the back but I thought once we clicked into gear, we were comfortable. We could have had another couple of goals in the first half but our final pass just let us down a wee bit. I knew we had the pace there to cause them massive problems and we tried to get bodies up the field to pin them back as high as we could and luckily enough we did get the scores in the end.”

With captain Ryan Connolly off at half-time, it was important others stepped up but the former Cavan corner forward wasn’t surprised with how they dealt with it.

“That’s one pleasure with these lads that we’re not relying on one or two. Every game we’ve played this year, someone else has popped up with scores. Like Liam Belton was magnificent in that first half, three points from an 18-year-old playing his first year of senior football.

“Daryl McGurren, in fairness, is probably being played out of position a wee bit to accommodate the players that we have and he really stepped up today when we needed him, when other lads were being marshalled, he kicked 1-4 and that’s what it’s all about. Different lads stepping up and hopefully next week it will be more of the same stuff.”

They say forwards win games but defences win championships and the 33-year-old Dunne was full of praise for the men at the back.

“We’re really battle hardened at the back, this time of year really suits the type of defenders we have. We’re strong in the tackle, we’re brave. Look Mark Maguire was outstanding there, Donal Monahan excellent again but you couldn’t single anyone of them out because our backs have been a credit all year for us.

“They probably they don’t get as much of the plaudits as they deserve with lads getting the scores up front but really do give us the platform to build. Look, they’re a serious tight group at the back and they’re all covering for each other and it great to see.”

With only six days to the Ulster final, Dunne explained his reasoning around the changes he made.

“I was talking to Ryan Connolly at half-time and it was just precautionary, there was no point in risking him. We were winning by seven or eight at that stage and we had the wind in the second half and with the six-day turnaround, with John and Dane (O’Dowd), probably two of the older lads on the team there’s no point in flogging them lads. We tried to keep them as fresh as possible for next week because it’s going to be a massive battle against Stewartstown.”

With a Man of the Match level of performance under his belt wing-back Mark Maguire looked to have pulled up in the final couple of minutes which would be a big blow if he was unavailable for Saturday’s final.

“I’d say Mark was just a bit of cramp. The amount of running he did up and down the field today was serious, but he should be fine.”

The six-day turnaround is one that isn’t ideal for either side but Dunne isn’t that worried about it. “We’ve had a couple of really tough games there. Between the preliminary game and the quarter final we had a six day turnaround so we’re use to it but we’ll not be doing a huge volume of work this week. It will probably be only one session and it will be a lite session at that.

“We’re not going to get any fitter at this stage so, look, it will be about getting the fine details right and making sure we have our match-ups and what way we’re going to play.”