Survivors Aughnamullen still have work to do

By Kieran Lynch

AUGHNAMULLEN survived relegation from the Senior League in their first year back in the top-flight in 26 years, but manager Gabriel Bannigan says that there is still more work to do.

Bannigan previously spoke to Gaelic Life earlier in the year, when things were looking bleak for his side, but after losing their opening four fixtures, they turned the tide around, and confirmed their status with their recent win over Carrickmacross.

“When we spoke earlier in the year, we were after losing our first two league games, against Truagh and Carrickmacross, with Carrick beating us by 16 points,” Bannigan reflected.

“So, it was a big learning curve for our lads to step up to senior, but they have developed and gained confidence. Over our last six league games, we won four, drew one and lost one; so, we’ve clearly been getting better performances and results.

“We’re fairly happy with the progress that we’ve made, but we have a long way to go yet.”

As for what changed as the season went on, Bannigan says that it was down to a number of factors coming together.

“To be honest, we have definitely got more of a buy-in from the players,” he admitted.

“Whether it was a hangover from losing the Intermediate final last year or what, I don’t know. But we wouldn’t have been happy with how we started the season, and we weren’t happy with the work that was being put in, and the commitment levels – so that’s one thing that improved.

“After that, it’s a young squad, and one that was relegated to Junior three years ago. So, they’ve been on an upward curve since then. Acclimatising to Senior football takes time, with the extra pace and the extra physicality, and that has been a work in progress in itself.”

Not only has the boost in form been crucial to their league survival; Aughnamullen have got on the winning track at just the right time, as they head into a challenging championship group.

“Well, we would want to be hitting form; because we have only gone and landed Scotstown, Clontibret, Ballybay and Donaghmoyne in our group,” said Bannigan.

“Those first three teams have carved up the Monaghan Senior Championship between them over the last 10 years, and Donaghmoyne have beaten us the last number of times that we have played.

“So, there’s no doubt that we’re going to have to improve; if we don’t, then we’re not going to compete with those teams. But if we’re doing the right things, then we will take the learnings as they come. As long as they’re heading in the right direction and making progress, then I’ll be happy.”

However hard the group may be, there is no doubt that this is exactly where Bannigan wants his team to be, as they have gone from playing Junior football in 2020, to rubbing shoulders with the county’s best, in such a short space of time.

“Absolutely,” he agreed, “That’s what I said to the players after the draw was made.

“It’s a daunting task, but this is where we wanted to be two years ago, when we were playing at Junior. For me, it’s a mark of the progress that we have made over the last two years, that we’re now facing championship draws against that calibre of teams.”




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