Ballycran determined to prove doubters wrong in Ulster final says skipper Michael Hughes
BALLYCRAN toppled the reigning champions in Sunday’s provincial semi-final but you don’t get a trophy for that and skipper Michael Hughes says the Ards outfit will keep their heads down over the next fortnight in preparation for the Ulster final against Cushendall.
The county Down outfit were outsiders against the back-to-back champions and, despite their unexpected win, they will be underdogs again in the final against their Antrim rivals – the side they beat when they won the most recent of their three Ulster titles back in 1993.
“Nobody gave us a chance going into that game,” said Hughes after Ballycran’s fully deserved 4-15 to 1-14 success at Belfast’s Corrigan Park.
“We just ignored that and focussed on ourselves. When’s the last time Slaughtneil were beaten in Ulster? This is a big achievement for us but we’re not getting any medals today and I’m not out there lifting a trophy so we’ll be all guns blazing for the next two weeks to get a crack at the Antrim champions.”
From the throw-in there was a fearless tenacity about Ballycran and they maintained that momentum right to the final whistle.
“We just thought that we might as well go and attack them,” said Hughes.
“It’s three years since we were last here and there are boys getting on, this is my ninth year playing senior hurling and we don’t want it to be another three years before we get a chance.
“We went for it. We went man-on-man and we won more or less every personal battle out there. I thought maybe two points wasn’t enough (of a lead) at half-time but we held on well and we drove on and kept working. There was serious work done out there and serious work done in training so credit to the management team for the preparation.
“Young Phelim Savage is only a minor but he did a great job on Chrissy McKaigue out there.
“He is a great talent and the likes of Conor Woods put in a serious effort, he turned the ball over three times and we got a goal off it so there was a massive effort done in our forward line and that helped our defence because the ball wasn’t coming in easily.
“It was a massive team effort.”
Hughes was two years-old when Ballycran last won the Ulster title.
With Stephen Keith’s puck-outs excellent, Ballycran’s mobile and skilful midfield unit paved the way for their success on Sunday with goal-hungry forwards James Coyle, Niall Breen and Christopher Egan adding the knockout blows with four first-time finishes. Hughes says the side will be determined to show their worth in the November 11 final.
“We were 33/1 to win Ulster this year,” he said.
“Outside our club people were probably laughing at the thought of Ballycran winning Ulster, we are only supposed to be making up the numbers but hopefully people will sit up now and take notice of what we’re trying to do down in the peninsula.
“We’ll give the final a good rattle. It’s been 25 years since Ballycran last won Ulster so it would be good to get it back in the club again.
“We’ll knuckle down, get the heads sorted and pout the work in on the training ground but we’ll enjoy this win. If you don’t enjoy wins like this you can’t enjoy your hurling. It’s the best win of my career and probably the best Ballycran have actually played because we’ve been playing in Down and haven’t really expressed ourselves so it was good to get out and get the shackles off.”