By Shaun Casey
BALLYMACNAB boss Barry Dillon has been pleasantly surprised by the standard of football in Division 1B of the Armagh club league.
The ‘Nab were relegated from the top tier last season but are strong contenders for promotion after winning three of their first four games.
“You think you’re down in Division 1B, you’re hoping maybe for an easier time of it, but the standard of teams has been unreal so far to be honest,” said Derry native Dillon.
“Actually, it surprised me how good it is. If that’s your eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth best team in the county there must be a good standard.”
Ryan Kennedy and Gavin McParland have both recently returned from injury, but Ballymacnab are still minus the likes of Rory and Jack Grugan.
While the side have their injury woes, Dillon has been pleased to give some game time to the younger members of the squad.
“The injury front has been brutal from day one, whenever I came in, I didn’t realise it was as bad a situation as it was.
“You’re talking maybe 20 men (out injured). It’s a big panel don’t get me wrong, there’s maybe 45 players involved but there was about 20 men at the start that all had problems.
“Slowly but surely, they’re starting to come back into it now. The likes of Christopher Loughran, he got bad news, he did his quad at the weekend, so he’ll be finished for the rest of the year.
“There are boys back and there’s other boys going but every team’s the same I suppose. It’ll be good whenever we start getting the majority of boys back again and hopefully push on from there.
“That was part of the remit as well whenever we came in. Ballymacnab is seen from people outside that they’re an aging, older team and there’s an element of truth to that so the club was keen to get younger boys through and keep them going for years to come.
“I’m happy to say that the way we went through the Ulster League and the early parts of the league we’re using a lot of boys, we’ve a different team out every week one way or another.
“It worked out that there’s now a squad of boys that maybe they didn’t have before which strengthens us down the line whenever boys have to come in to do a job, at least they have some experience.”
Their next test is on Friday when they host Carrickcruppen, who have won their last two games.
“I know they’ve got a lot of young players and a lot of boys that played for Armagh u-20s, so they’ll be a young, enthusiastic team. They won the Intermediate Championship last year, so they’ll be coming buzzing for their return to senior football.
“Any players, a rack of young boys winning things together, going up to play at the top level of senior football, you’re going to be buzzing and that’s going to get all the respect from us to have to deal with that.”
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