Happy as Barry
Ballagh’s Barry Regan has learnt a lot this season.
NEARLY three weeks on from September 17 and there are still as many questions as answers as to what happened to Mayo. While not directly involved when Kerry struck, Ballaghaderreen’s Barry Regan was a close eyewitness at the scene but is still trying to get his head around the nature of the defeat.
“In terms of physicality Kerry are at a level a step or two above us,” reflected the non-playing substitute last week. “Perhaps a touch above in fitness too. We’re not as far off the level as that game showed though, there’s no way we are.
“The whole thing started in a blast, they went ahead 2-2 to 0-0. We were sitting there thinking that it’s not meant to be this way. We lost it at the start and it’s so hard to know why. In the Dublin game Mayo were flying fit, in the final we looked flat on our feet.
“When so many things are going wrong all around the field you cannot blame individual lads because it is impossible to play well when everything around you is going wrong. All everyone can do is try to improve themselves individually for next year,” admitted Regan.
The Ballagh’ full-forward – who is currently resuming his studies in Sligo IT where he is taking a Masters in Health and Safety Management and planning to play Sigerson Cup football – is certainly one player who has benefited from his Mayo involvement this year. Regan, together with Mayo team mate Andy Moran, has struck up a formidable inside forward line for his club and admits that Mickey Moran, John Morrison and Kieran Gallagher have improved his own game.
“I felt I have made progress this year being involved with Mayo. Every night at training there is no quarter asked or given and you will be marking the best players in the county. I would always have been dabbling with doing bits and pieces of weights but with no defined programme. The lads gave us precise programmes and I was able to tip away at that during the winter. I can only talk about Mickey, John and Kieran from my own experience. I don’t think any manager brought me on as much as the three lads did. I improved all year with them.”
The 23 year old Ballagh’ forward made his senior inter-county championship debut in the All-Ireland quarter-final replay against Laois back in August after injury had blighted his progress last Spring.
“Ahead of the Laois game I felt I was going very well in training. The type of manager Mickey is, he’s very loyal to his starting fifteen if they are going reasonably well. I felt I was doing enough to be in consideration and I never lost the faith. It was a great feeling to come on for your championship debut in Croke Park.”
REGAN is one of thirteen Mayo panellists who had the pick-me-up of Senior Championship quarter-final wins the week after the All-Ireland final. Ballagh’ are now gearing up for a crack at Knockmore in Sunday’s semi-final and they have so far justified many people’s tip of them being dark horses for the championship. The first real illustration of this was with their draw in the group stage against Crossmolina.
“We knew the acid test would come against Crossmolina,” agrees Regan. “People spoke before that game about us being dark horses but there is no point in being given that title until you go somewhere like Crossmolina and get a good result, then you will know where you stand. We drew that game and we were happy afterwards that we would be able to make a good go of things.”
A comfortable win prior to that against Breaffy combined with tight wins over Ballinrobe and Garrymore put Ballagh’ into the quarter-finals against neighbours Charlestown. Regan freely admits that the tight finishes stood to them against their local rivals.
“We came through a tight group and I think that is a huge thing. We played four games and we weren’t turned over in any of them. Those games helped us build up a bit of steel and we brought that into the game with Charlestown. When the match was in the melting pot we knew what we were at and those tight games stood to us.”
Speaking of tight situations, Ballagh’ were in a very tight one last year to maintain their senior status. A late Enda Varley goal for Garrymore in a relegation play-off had put Ballagh’ back down to the Intermediate grade. However, luck was on their side and a Croke Park ruling meant only one team could go down. Ballagh’ were given another chance against Hollymount and took it with open arms. They haven’t looked back since.
“We thought we were gone after the Garrymore game and the mood was very sombre afterwards but thankfully we got an intervention from somewhere and got one more game. We won that and were senior again. James Mitchell took us over in 2004 when we were very inconsistent. He really brought things on in terms of attitude and fitness. He left us in a nice state.
”This year now is the first year that Frank (Kelly), John (O’Mahony) and Pat (O’Grady) were involved with the senior side. Johnno worked with most of us in Nathy’s (Secondary School in Ballaghaderreen) and we won a Mayo Colleges title and an All-Ireland B. He’s a proven winner and it is great to have him on board, you learn a lot from him, he’s a great guy to work with. I’m sure Frank and Pat are learning from him too.”
And now Knockmore await. A glorious opportunity beckons for both sides to make the county final. “We’re under no illusions about Knockmore. We played them a lot at underage and they were always a very good side.
“Their club is stepped in tradition and that means that players playing now for them have been raised on the club winning county titles and they are used to winning. They want to continue that. We believe though that we can beat anyone in the county and next Sunday will be the big test. You’ll only really find out about yourself when you are in the white heat of championship and there is no bigger challenge than Knockmore.”