In the end eight points separated the teams in Owenbeg as Belnaleck bowed out of the Ulster Intermediate Championship at the hands of Derry champions Banagher. But for manager, Colm Bradley, the score didn’t tell the full story of a game that he felt could have went a different way:

“The overriding feeling at the end of the game was one of frustration. The game turned on a couple of key moments. The goal at the start of the second half was a real hammer blow for us,” he stated.

Belnaleck had fallen four points down inside the opening minutes of the first half but had played some excellent football to cut the deficit to two points at the break but that goal within 30 second of the restart left them with a mountain to climb:

“It’s what happens against quality opposition. They were clinical at key moments and the two goals they scored gave them cushions. We fought back from the first one but the second was a killer for us,” he said, before adding:

“We were actually quite pleased with how we played in the first half although we maybe lacked a bit of cutting edge at times. We were caught a little for the first goal but after that I felt in an attacking sense we cut them open several times while at the back we really got to grips with them. We could have scored more and perhaps had a goal or two ourselves but they were cute a few times in fouling us when we were breaking through.”

All in all Bradley wants his team to learn from their experience against Banagher.

“Look, they were the best team we have played by some distance. Really good footballers all over the pitch. I think we matched them very well in the first half but in the second they were the better team. We have to take that on the chin and learn from it. It was a ruthless lesson to learn. As players and management we have to see what areas we need to improve on and take it from there. It is easy to enjoy the successes but the truth is that you will learn far more from defeat if you are actually honest with yourself.”

When the dust settles, however, Bradley and Belnaleck will be able to reflect on what has been a very good 2018.

“It can be hard after a defeat to give a season its full context. When we are able to , I think we will be quietly happy with how things have gone,” the former county man explained.

“I think the perception outside the squad was that we would be mediocre in the league and probably would have been outside the top five or six teams in the Intermediate championship. We never felt that however and from day one we were confident in what we could achieve,” Bradley explained.

“We obviously won the championship and that was a tremendous result given the quality of the teams that were in it. And in the league we finished top four and while we didn’t get promoted that game with Teemore could have went either way and I was so proud of the fight the players showed just a week after the championship final,” he said.

Turning his attention to the future Bradley is already looking forward to 2019.

“The club as a whole, the management, the team and the players as individuals all have to push on now. Great strides have been made but I genuinely believe there is so much more in us. We have had a brilliant influx of young players into the squad this season who have pushed things on and our strength in depth has been pleasing. But there is no point in standing still, everyone needs to improve and make the most of the opportunity to play in the senior championship.”

Bradley appears to be chomping at the bit already.