Na Fianna spirit pleases Stephen Ferguson

By Niall Gartland

STEPHEN Ferguson may only be in his debut season in charge of Coalisland, but he’s confident that they’re only going to get better in the weeks and months to come.

Their league form has been mixed, but they did extremely well to plunder a draw from a gripping tussle with Loughmacrory on Friday night when it looked like the game was slipping away from them.

Na Fianna have a significant amount of injuries to contend with at the moment, while Michael McKernan and Tyrone All-U20 winning captain Niall Devlin are playing their football in the United States for the summer, so Ferguson is confident that they’ll improve as the season wears on.

Last season they struggled in the league before embarking on a memorable run to the Championship final, so it’s fair to say that the potential exists for another serious tilt at the O’Neill Cup at the business end of things.

Ferguson said: “This is a work-in-progress for me and Gavin McGeehan, but I can’t fault the players, their fighting spirit and their efforts.

“We’re trying out new systems, they’re finding out about us and we’re finding out about them, but we’ll improve.

“Last year they ended up reaching the Championship final but we’re conscious that every game at senior level is a dogfight.

“We’re trying to ensure our Division One safety first and foremost and then we’ll look ahead to the championship.”

Loughmacrory made life extremely difficult for Coalisland on Friday night and carried most of the momentum into the closing minutes of the contest.

Late score from Plunkett Kane and Tiaran Quinn ensured that Na Fianna gained a valuable point, however, heading into the fortnight’s holiday break.

“It was always going to be difficult for Loughmacrory, they’re a very well-drilled team who have been on the road for a few years now.

“For us it was about protecting the ball and working hard, and I can’t fault our lads, they worked extremely hard and showed a bit of fighting spirit when we went behind twice in injury time. That fighting spirit was the most pleasing aspect for me as it’s something we’ve been looking for all year. We’ll improve over the next few stills and still have a lot of injured lads to come back into the team.”

Coalisland had most of the possession in the first-half but struggled to translate that into scores. A free on the stroke of half-time from Loughmacrory goalkeeper Oisin O’Kane from way out the park was a kick in the teeth as it meant they only held a two-point lead at the break. It was a major psychological lift for Loughmacrory and it took Coalisland a long time to settle in the second-half.

Ferguson said: “I thought we played very well in the first-half and forced something like eight turnovers, but we didn’t make the most of that and kicked a number of wides.

“When the goalie hit that score, it must’ve been a great boost for them and I’m sure they had a good team-talk. It took us 10 or 15 minutes to get back into the game so I’m very happy with the draw. It leaves us with four points on the board and we’ll kick on again when we get those injured players back.”

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