Ballybay boss on the hunt for new talent

By Shaun Casey

BALLYBAY are part of the chasing pack in Monaghan that are hoping to break the Scotstown stranglehold on the Mick Duffy Cup.

Jerome Johnston, a Kilcoo native, heads into his second season in charge of the men in maroon, alongside Mark Doran.

The pair led Ballybay to the last four of the championship in 2021, but injuries to some key personnel hindered their chances against an up-and-coming Truagh side.

“Last year, injuries played a big part, I’ve never seen it as bad with any team I’ve ever been involved with,” Johnston said.

“The timing of injuries couldn’t have been worse, Drew Wylie was only coming back and then he picked up another injury because he was trying to cram too much in.

“He was unfortunate, these things happen. Then Dessie Ward picked up an injury just ahead of the semi-final, there was another few lads carrying knocks and weren’t available or weren’t fit to train coming up to the game.

“That’s part and parcel of the game. You’re always going to have injuries.”

One man that is always available is the evergreen Paul Finley, who still pulls the strings for the Pearses.

“Paul’s a gem. You have to just look after Paul and wrap him in cotton wool sometimes, not that he would want that.”

“I don’t think he missed two training sessions all year. One of the (missed) training sessions was his wife gave birth to a child and obviously he wasn’t available that night, but Paul doesn’t miss too many.

“He keeps himself in great shape and those type of players only come into a club once in a blue moon. Paul’s just a serious athlete, he keeps himself in great shape, the way he goes through his daily life, he’s just a finely tuned man.”

A starting date for the Monaghan club league has yet to be confirmed, but Johnston’s philosophy remains the same.

Everything is building towards the championship and Johnston, who had three sons involved in Kilcoo’s All-Ireland winning campaign, will use the league as a place to find some emerging talent within his squad.

“We’re going to use the league this year to hopefully unearth another two or three players that can play at that level. If we can and introduce them to senior football and they’re established come championship time, that’s really our goal in the league.

“That’s always a task on its own and you’re just hoping everyone stays injury free. There is always one or two boys that put their hands up and you know that boy has something to offer when it comes to championship time and that’s what you’re really looking for.

“I’m a firm believer that leagues are for getting your team ready for playing championship. That’s my honest opinion. And I’m not disregarding or degrading the league in any shape or form, but that’s the way I look at leagues. Leagues are all about getting ready for the big day, it’s the championship that’s the most important thing.”

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