Burren need to get in front early
IT WAS one of those throw-away comments made in the middle of the campaign, but it’s worth dusting down now that these two have made it to the Ulster final.
“We learned a lot of lessons from the Cross game last year. Mainly that you can’t afford to have a slow start in Ulster, no matter who you’re playing against. In the first ten minutes we just didn’t get out of the traps, we couldn’t get going.
“If you don’t start right, it’s very hard to get back into the game. You have to be on the ball from the first whistle.”
That was Gerard McCartan, reflecting on some of the differences between Burren this season and last, but it was a salient point. Crossmaglen have become the daunting side that snuff out teams in the opening quarter. In the days of John Donaldson, Anthony Cunningham and the McEntees, their speciality used to be presenting Oisín with a chance to steal games late on. Now, they don’t even give the opposition the luxury of making it a contest that long.
Ballinderry entered their semi-final against Cross as the best game-starters in the province. In the first 30 seconds of the Derry final, Raymond Wilkinson had a goal. Against Dromore, they had another major inside 60 seconds from Michael McIver.
But then they met Cross, who rattled over four points in the first four minutes.
“It’s something we would have targeted ourselves all year,” reflected Conleith Gilligan this week.
“Because we have such a big midfield, we usually win the throw-in and build from there. Against Cross, they won the throw-in and they were able to build. It’s easy talking about ‘a good start’, but at the end of the day, everybody wants to get off to a good start. The problem is that Cross are better at it than most teams. You can try and talk about it, but then you have to do it. Unless you win the throw-in, you can’t.”