2018 was a disappointing year for Ballymahon; relegated from Division 1 and deciding to drop down to the Intermediate Championship. The start of 2019 wasn’t much better and manager Ken McKinley wondered when their luck would change.
He got his answer in a challenge match against Tubberclair. The win set them off on a journey that has seen them reach the Intermediate Championship Final.
McKinley said: “We would definitely look back to a challenge match we played this year against Tubberclair. It had not been going well for us up until then; we hadn’t won a game.
“For some unknown reason we just went out and produced a really good performance. We won by two points and it was a good feeling.
“We haven’t looked back. It was a small little win that our whole year hinged on. It was a win we desperately needed.”
The Ballymahon boss can look back on certain factors that caused their poor start to 2019.
He was full of praise for the players for sticking with it through that difficult period. “We came down from Senior and it wasn’t a good year. We lost a few players.
“The lads showed maturity, we knew what was wrong and we knew what we needed to try and fix it. We got a few lads back from injury, the soccer stopped and we had lads to work with. The boys have responded so well.”
On Sunday Ballymahon face a side who were relegated to the Intermediate championship in 2017 and who would dearly love to get back up to the senior grade.
Many would’ve expected these two teams to be fighting it out for Intermediate glory.
“You are now looking at the two teams who have shown a bit of consistency in the latter part of the year,” said McKinley.
Ballymahon had to overcome a determined Ardagh Moydow side, after a replay, in the semi-final. The two games saw McKinley experience every type of emotion.
The Westmeath man said: “On the one hand, as a management team we would be very disappointed that we let teams get out that far ahead of us, on the flip side the questions were asked and the lads answered them.
“They came back and showed very cool heads to do what they did. We better not do that against Drumlish because if we do that we might not recover.”
Experience helped Ballymahon through in the end. “We have got some very good experienced players. The spine of our team would be backed up by mature players. The likes of James Kenny, Kevin Diffley, Emmet Finn and Mark Connor,” commented McKinley.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s opponents the Ballymahon manager is well aware of the threat the Fr Manning Gaels forwards pose and their team as a whole.
“They are very dangerous and have a potent full-forward line. They’ve other players in other areas of the pitch too that we have to watch.
“They have a very good running game. They are favourites going into the game. Favourites for a reason. It’s going to be a huge task for us and we have a lot of work to do.”