By Michael McMullan
ULSTER University can still have a big say in the destination of the Sigerson Cup insists manager Barry Dillon.
The five-time winners surrendered a two-point lead in the finale of Tuesday’s 1-12 to 1-11 opening round defeat against Belfast rivals Queen’s and Dillon insists there are lessons to be learned.
Ulster now have a week to get their house in order for next week’s clash with ATU Donegal in the last chance saloon.
University’s showpiece football competition has a system that offers every team a second bite at the cherry.
“It’s like the back door situation with the clubs, it’s never the same,” said Dillon, a former player with the college.
“Don’t get me wrong, you want to win the games and it’s disappointing, but you are no further on or back really.
“At the end of the day, every team’s goal is to win the Sigerson and it’s not to win a first round game.”
Dillon’s hopes his side can get two games to build momentum in the back door on the way to a potential quarter-final but insists there is much to work on.
He laments the chances his side gave away on top of their eight wides and five shots dropped into the arms of Queen’s goalkeeper Brian Cassidy.
“If you start doing that in a game, it doesn’t matter who you are playing next, there is a lot of improving to be done,” he added, also pointing to the concession of a goal within a minute of Ryan Magill finding the net to open a 1-6 to 0-5 lead after 37 minutes.
“Sure we all tell every team, from u-12 upwards; if you score a goal the important thing is to not concede in the next couple of minutes.
“We were four points up at that stage and within 40 seconds the ball was in the back of the net to make a massive difference and it gives them a lift.”
Of the 19 players Dillon used in Tuesday’s derby clash at The Dub, 13 had played in the opening rounds of the Dr McKenna Cup.
“There are county teams playing and it is fractured,” he said of their build-up since going out of the league at the quarter-final stage in a classic at the hands of beaten finalists UCD.
“We (always) said the competition starts tonight and if you are beat, it is old fashioned knock-out now
“There are a lot of learnings from that game and we have to make sure we put them right the next day.”
Next week’s clash with Maxi Curran’s ATU Donegal is a second meeting of the season, with UU coming through the league clash on a wet night in Convoy and Dillon expects more of the same.
“It is going to be a carbon copy of this (Queen’s game), it is going to be another dogged affair and playing tonight is hopefully going to set us in good stead for that,” he said.
“We played them (ATU) in the league and it was a tight affair. Now it is championship, real championship and the gloves are off, it is bare knuckles from here on in.
“To be honest, that’s the way you want it. You might say it (Queen’s defeat) is an important game but it’s not, this is die dog or shite the licence now so we have to make it count.
“If we get our act together we’ll have a big say in this thing….if we get it right and it’s about getting it right the next day”