For the second year running Ballymacnab will contest the Senior Football Championship Final, their third ever and just as the first two, Crossmaglen will once again stand in their way of capturing their first ever title. The Nab enjoyed a hard fought win over near neighbours Granemore in the semi final on Saturday night, seeing out a three point victory after extra time.
The conditions were a great leveller and turned the game into a war of attrition, which played right into the hands of Granemore. The St Mary’s side battled heroically to come back from the dead and bring the game into extra time where The Round Towers pulled away to defeat their arch-rivals.
Central to Ballymacnab’s plans is there imperious full back Ryan Kennedy, his brave display on Saturday night ensured his side didn’t concede a goal when Granemore’s tactic of route one football caused havoc in the square. Kennedy led from the front and his calm presence on the ball helped his side pull away in the end.
At full back, Kennedy knew that the ball would be pelted into the small rectangle, but preparing for it was another thing, “You can’t really prepare for conditions like that, the balls are coming in and you practise in training all the time but there’s nothing you can do with conditions like that. The balls’ going to drop and it’s about who wants it more really and who’s there on the lucky break”.
With the game in the melting pot during the final few moments of normal time, Kennedy and his team mates had to battle against Granemore’s revival to keep their championship hopes alive, “It was tough going; Granemore took us all the way. Everybody was getting tired so it took everybody to dig in, the conditions weren’t good but we got there in the end, it was very hard work”.
“We felt we were there, we could have had it won (in normal time), Granemore fought back hard but we still knew we had more in us. It was a case of missed opportunities and Granemore fought hard to get back in it. We knew we had a good shout if we played the way we can, that we’d get over the line”.
As Ballymacnab’s semi final was just before Crossmaglen’s, the Nab had the comfort of sitting back to watch the second game, but Kennedy declined the notion that this was an advantage to his team, “The two best teams are going to be in the final whatever way you want to look at it, we all know each other so there’s no real advantage, we know each other inside out”.
Now that the Nab have seen off their old foes, attention will fully turn to the championship final which takes place in the Athletic Grounds on Sunday 20th of October . As before, Crossmaglen will go into the game heavy favourites and as history shows, Cross don’t lose many championship finals.
Ballymacnab won’t be concerned by history as they attempt to rewrite their own and they will try to learn from their experiences of last year. “We’ll celebrate that tonight but as far as the final, we’re looking forward to it. We had a chance last year and we felt we let it slip, Cross were just better on the day but we’ll be back now and we’re in with a chance again”.