ULSTER CAMOGIE JUNIOR CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
BANAGHER V BALLYMACNAB
BANAGHER’S Official Twitter account proudly boasts that they’re “Derry Intermediate Camogie Champions, Derry Intermediate Hurling Champions and Derry Senior Football Semi Finalists” – and depending on how things work out this weekend, it could get even better.
Their footballers have exceeded expectations to qualify for Saturday’s semi-final against Magherafelt, but let’s not forget their camogs, who are in action a day later in the Ulster Junior Championship final against Ballymacnab.
Their manager is Michael O’Kane, and he doesn’t have the background you might expect. He says he was a football man, and a football man only, before taking on the job, and he admits this season has been faintly unbelievable.
“You couldn’t write it. At the start of our season we set our goal for our camogie team to win the Derry Championship team as we were beaten finalists last year.
“The hurlers and footballers had an up and down season but have come good at the right team. Any manager will tell you it’s about peaking at the right time. We didn’t play well in our championship final win over Kilrea, but at the end of the match we had more on the scoreboard. It’s been that kind of season.”
O’Kane’s right-hand man Mickey Lynch is also a ‘football man’, but Margaret O’Connor and Deirdre Biggs are helping out as well and bring with them a wealth of camogie knowledge and experience. As for the most important people in all this – the players themselves – well they’re a “dream to work with.”
O’Kane commented: “It’s the same with any club, you like to give a hand when you can. The good thing is that you learn as you go along.
“At the end of the day the players still have to have the same application and preparation no matter what the coach is. They’re a great bunch of girls and an absolute dream to work with. Some of girls are married and have children, they’ve given up a lot to have this opportunity.”
Banagher won the Derry Championship final in remarkable circumstances, overcoming an eight-point deficit with just over ten minutes remaining to run out 3- 8 to 1-12 victors. It was perfect preparation in a sense for the Ulster Club Championship and they hammered Down team Castlewellan in the semi-final.
“We prepared well for the Castlewellan match, we made a few enquiries and found out they were very strong in the middle so we prepared our team for that.
“I think to be honest our overall skill and work-rate was too much for them. They’re a young side and we left no stone unturned to play for that game.”