By Michael McMullan
BALLYMAGUIGAN are 60 minutes away from completing the treble with the league and cup silverware already banked for the season.
Standing in their way are Moneymore in Saturday’s JFC final (Owenbeg, 6pm) and manager Patsy Bateson is well aware of the challenge.
Ballymaguigan were 1-19 to 3-8 winners when Moneymore came to visit in the league back in June but the score only tells half the story.
“They blew us out of the park in the first half,” said Bateson, who admits dishing out the hairdryer treatment at the break.
“We turned it around in the second half and beat them. They will think they left that one behind them and will be coming for us but we’ll be coming for them too.”
Ballymaguigan finished the league with a 100 per cent record and Bateson feels winning the McGlinchey Cup early in the season gave them the platform to build.
A former player, he was in the management team last season when they lost out in the semi-final to eventual winners Craigbane.
As manager this season, with Ned O’Neill, he wanted to change the mentality in the club and make winning every game very important in the overall big picture.
It was game by game with the focus on getting the club back playing intermediate football again.
“The players bought in well and winning the league gave us a bit of momentum and that set us up well for the championship,” he added.
“Promotion was always at the back of my mind,” he said. “As a club, I would’ve tried to instill into the players that we have to try and play at a better standard.”
After relegation from intermediate, Covid and Derry CCC’s promotion freeze has kept them in junior until now.
With Pearse O’Neill, Odhran Letters and Patrick Cuskeran coming in from the underage, Bateson wanted the players exposed to intermediate football to help them prepare for a career in adult football.
“As a player, you have to be aspiring to be playing at a higher level all the time,” he said, admitting that after retiring too early he’d love to be playing in Saturday’s showdown.
“When we pulled Ballerin in the (semi-final) draw, there was some buzz around our pitch all week.
“Not only were we trying to avenge the semi-final defeat (against Craigbane in 2022) but we were also playing a massive team in Ballerin so our tails were really up for that one.
“To pull Moneymore is a big one too…it is a local derby,” Bateson said, explaining how some of the players from the same amalgamated u-19 team will be go head to head on Saturday.
“Moneymore won’t be easy beat and it is no accident they are in the final. I think they are a really good team and they are really well drilled by Donal Laverty, who I think is a great coach.
“He has them going well and transformed them, just like we have done. You can see them coming with 30 men and everybody seems to have bought into what Donal is doing. Moneymore deserve respect for where they are at.”