By Michael McMullan
WHEN Swatragh interim manager John Kearney emerged from the team huddle after victory over Bellaghy on Saturday evening, he had two concise messages.
The players deserved all the credit for digging out the result and they’d have to repeat the performance in Lavey on Sunday (3.30pm) in their final group game.
The Derry Senior Football Championship has been given a revamp this season. The 14 teams have been divided into two groups of seven.
The top four in each advance to the quarter-finals. The team finishing fifth, their season is over. The bottom two in each group will face off in relegation play-offs with both losers relegated to intermediate for next season.
Glen have already secured top spot in the group. Bellaghy, Ballinascreen and Lavey are all on six points. Swatragh and Dungiven are on four points.
Sunday will be calculator Sunday in Group A and Swatragh have given themselves a chance of staying clear of the bottom two and a play-off. A win and they could see themselves in the quarter-finals. That’s how tight it is.
“It is all about players,” Kearney said after their win over Bellaghy. He took over as interim manager after John Brennan’s departure early in the season.
Goals from twin brothers Francis and Patrick Kearney were the key scores to sink the Tones with the latter central to everything Swatragh did.
“It’s not about the line (management) because it’s the players that took control of it,” Kearney added. “It’s always about them, it is not about us. It’s the players driving it on.”
“It’s the same next week against Lavey. If we lose, we are in relegation (play-off). If we win, it’s going to go down to score difference.”
Bellaghy, who had an extra man after Dominic Bradley’s black card, pulled back level before Swatragh pulled clear with a balanced team performance.
“It just felt that, in the second half, a couple of things went against us,” Kearney said. “There were a few times when we had scoring opportunities, we missed them. It was tit for tat and they (Bellaghy) got it back to a draw. The players did very well to get it back.”
Kearney admitted his side got “a wee bit” of luck when Francis Kearney’s shot sailed all the way past Bellaghy ‘keeper Peter Stuart to the net on the way to their 2-8 to 0-12 win.
““It was a big win,” John Kearney admitted, “but it means nothing next week because we are in the same position against Lavey. We have to go again.”