ANNACLONE manager Ciaran Brannigan is hoping that the pain of 2018 is keeping his players sharp as they attempt to claim the Division Three crown in Drumaness on Saturday night.
The odds are very much in the ’Clone’s favour. They need just one more win from their final two games whilst they will also lift the title if Drumgath fail to win their final three games.
Brannigan, who moved from selector to manager midway through last season after Peter Travers’s exit, saw first-hand how they pushed some big teams last year as they fought relegation in Division Two – and he knows that they will face similar challenges in the run-in.
“We were in the same position at the bottom of the table last year as the teams we are set to face (Drumaness and Dromara),” said Brannigan. We pushed Loughinisland all the way when they were running for Division Two and we pushed Longstone too.
“It’s the same thing now, Drumaness and Dromara are fighting for safety and that makes them equally as dangerous as a team at the top trying to win it.”
Avoid defeat in their final two games and the side not only claims league honours, but ensures an unbeaten record following 16 wins and two draws in their 18 games to date.
Brannigan said that he has been delighted with the application of his players this season.
“You had Banbridge (Clann na Banna) towards the start of the league, Drumgath, Shamrocks, Ballymartin. Those are all very tough teams.
“Our banana skin this year was actually Bosco away. It was a Friday night, a lot of games were called off in the county but ours went ahead.
“We just did everything wrong and went into injury time a point down but managed to get the leveler before scoring the winner.
“It hasn’t been plain sailing, there have been moments were it looked like we struggled, but the boys have managed to get over the line in those and have done well in large parts of other games. You have to be really happy with it.”
The former Ballyholland coach is a busy man as he combines the Annaclone job with his role managing Dromara’s soccer team.
That may seem a big ask in today’s commitment obsessed sporting world, but he said that these things are possible.
“I’m not intense with the Gaelic and I’m not intense with the soccer,” he said.
“We set out a structure for both and stick to it. I’m young, I’m still only 31 and I love it. I’d love to still be playing.
“People may look at it and say I shouldn’t be doing it, but you have to try these things if you enjoy them.”