Down hurling final should have been played to a finish: Ballycran's Gary Savage
BALLYCRAN manager Gary Savage says last week’s drawn Down Senior Hurling Championship final with Portaferry should have been finished on the day – but says his men will be ready for Saturday’s fascinating replay.
The two rivals couldn’t be separated in last weekend’s decider after extra-time with ‘Cran picking up a number of injuries from the game.
“I probably would have preferred to finish the game there and then last Saturday,” said Savage.
“We could have had another five minutes each way. There have been penalty kicks in other counties – now whether that’s right or wrong, I don’t know – but it should have been finished, especially with Covid. We wanted another week’s grace but the county board couldn’t do that because of Covid.”
As a consequence of the seven-day turnaround, Savage will be without his son and midfielder Liam Savage and Christopher Egan after both picked up injuries in the 2-18 to 2-18 draw.
“Liam and Chris are out,” Savage confirmed. “Paddy Hughes [wing-back] I’m hoping will be alright. It’s about using the panel now and I’ve faith in the boys that will come in.”
Defending champions Ballycran kept their hopes alive of completing three-in-a-row last week after grabbing a late equaliser in normal time and again in stoppage-time in extra-time last Saturday in Ballygalget.
Now in his third season with his native club, Savage added: “Since we took over we never thought about three-in-a-row because we were lucky to get one-in-a-row.
“But once you’ve a chance of three-in-a-row why not think about it. It’s another carrot because it is a big deal. It’s not burdening us or anything like that. It would be nice because it hasn’t been done in a while, but we just want to win the match. It is something to think about after the game.”
Ballycran, who sit top of the roll of honour list in Down with 26 titles, last pulled off three-in-a-row in 1993 to ’95, while Portaferry are hoping to end a six-year famine on Saturday.
Savage, whose backroom team consists of Michael Braniff, James Henry Hughes, Jamie Fowler and Greg Hughes, have been drilling it into their players since the first game about their high foul count that gifted Portaferry 12 placed ball conversions out of their 2-18 tally.
“What can we do better? Hold onto the lead better than we did in the first game. We were six or seven up in the first half, so we need to stop giving away frees. We have to be more disciplined in the tackle. We gave Portaferry too many frees because the young fella [Padraig] Dornan took them well.
“We just didn’t push on when we got in front.
“But it was a very different performance than our last three performances [in the round robin phase]. We showed what we are capable of last week and let’s hope we can go one better.”
Savage (50), who was one of the leading players on the Ards peninsula during the 1990s last played eight years ago.
He’s been always around the senior team since he hung up his boots and admits he doesn’t enjoy the rigours of the sideline.
“Christ, no, you can’t enjoy those matches,” he said. “After the lead up to last Saturday’s final we’ve got to do it all again. It’s the same as the rest of the managers – when you’re involved in the senior championship it never seems to get any easier, maybe it's worse when you are part of the management team.”