Hurling and camogie

We're a different proposition than Dunloy ahead of Slaughtneil joust: Ballycran's Conor Woods

 Conor Woods of Ballycran

BALLYCRAN defender Conor Woods feels the Down champions are possibly better equipped than fallen Antrim champions Dunloy to plot the downfall of Slaughtneil in Sunday’s Ulster final at Corrigan Park.

While not under-estimating the size of the task facing ’Cran, Woods is hoping they can bring a bit more physical edge to the contest than Dunloy managed to do.

For the third time in five years on the provincial stage, the Cuchullain’s ran into a brick wall against the three-time Ulster champions.

Physically, Slaughtneil had the edge over Dunloy in most areas of the field during last Sunday’s absorbing semi-final at the Athletic Grounds and came up short by seven points.

“To be honest, I thought that game [between Dunloy and Slaughtneil] would have been a bit tighter,” Woods admitted.

“I thought Dunloy maybe would have learnt a bit from the previous two games against Slaughtneil, and they probably could have come up with something different. They only tried a couple of things: they tried to come out short and towards the end they were going a bit longer and leaving it in.

“And, to be honest, Slaughtneil were able to deal with both. They’re a good team, everyone knows that, and it just shows you the level they’re at.

“Physicality is a big thing at this time of year. For balls dropping on the ground at the minute, they’re turning into complete rucks. You see the weight of packs in rugby, and that comes into it too, and that breaking ball.

“We’ve played Dunloy and they do try to create space [in their forward line], but their ball in needs to be good. I don’t think this time of year suits Dunloy. The likes of Cushendall, with a bit more physicality, would be different opposition [for Slaughtneil].

“And we’d be a different opposition to Dunloy. We would probably have that bit more weight about us in defence and up front. We would probably approach it a bit differently. We know how good Slaughtneil are in the tackle and it’s something we’ve been thinking about and preparing for.”

Last season, Ballycran were denied three-in-a-row by Portaferry across two brilliant games – but avenged that replay defeat in this year’s extra-time thriller in Newry.

A fresh management team of Jamie Fowler and James Henry and the introduction of a raft of young players, including the likes of Stuart Martin, James Clarke and Ethan Bell, have given Ballycran the bounce they needed in 2021.

Woods, who came out of minor after winning back-to-back Ulster titles in 2006 and ’07, hasn’t been able to repeat that feat at senior level having finished a runner-up on three occasions: 2009, 2011 and 2018.

The experienced county ace still holds out the hope of following in the footsteps of his father – Dermot Woods and other local legends of the club, Gary Savage and Noel Keith who were part of the last Ballycran side to win a provincial title in the 1992/93 season, all of whom now have sons on the current team.

“I would love to add an Ulster Championship,” said Woods, who was a key player in Down’s Christy Ring triumph in 2013.

“If I finished without one, it would always be something that wouldn’t sit too well with me.”

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Hurling and camogie