By Shaun Casey
BALLYHEGAN are in the strange scenario of competing in the Ulster Club Championship having not won their county championship.
Barry Hughes’ side lost heavily to Clann Éireann seconds in the Armagh JFC final, 4-12 to 1-8, but, due to the GAA’s ruling seconds teams out of Ulster, it’s Ballyhegan who represent the Orchard County in the province on Saturday (BOX-IT Athletic Grounds 3.30pm).
“We don’t deserve it and it’s very unfair on Clann Éireann seconds,” said manager Hughes, a native of the Davitt’s club.
“It’s an awful rule, the way we have gone this year being runners up in the league and runners up in the championship and yet we’re the ones that get to go ahead and we’ve achieved nothing.
“But we have to go and give it our best shot. Last week we were feeling sorry for ourselves and licking our wounds and we’ve trained a couple of times, but it’s been very lacklustre but probably the best way to try and find your feet again is to go back training.
“The boys have been training three times a week since the eighth of November last year, so it’s become a routine that probably nobody wants to give up.”
They take on Tyrone champions Fintona and, while morale may be low in the camp, Ballyhegan will have the advantage of knowing the BOX-IT Athletic Grounds a lot better than their opponents, having played their last three games there.
While that comfort may only take them so far, the Ballyhegan manager insists he doesn’t know a lot about their opponents and that mightn’t be a bad thing.
“We should be used to it,” added Hughes on the subject of home advantage.
“I know maybe Cookstown were the favourites but knowing Tyrone football, Fintona will be coming in sharp. Rumour has it that they’re coming in thinking they’re going to give us walloping so it’s an opportunity at the back of it all, it’s an opportunity to take a bit of revenge out on someone.
“They have a couple of sharp enough forwards. Their game is on the Tyrone website so we can take a look at them, but I think they’re a young enough team while we’re more of a mix of a few old hands and a few younger guys. Our match ups will be very important, that we don’t let their young fellas line up against our older guys and give them a run on us on the day.
“We’re going to have to think on our feet as opposed to a lot of pre-planned stuff which is maybe not the worst thing either.
“There was a pile of effort went into those other games in the quarter-finals and the semi-finals,” added Hughes.
“You’re going back through all the games and you’re going back through your notes over and over again and watching loads of games. While now, this is a bit more of a lighter load albeit with a heavier heart.”