'I cannot thank the boys enough, they had a great year even after being beaten in Croke Park'

'I cannot thank the boys enough, they had a great year even after being beaten in Croke Park'
Charleville coach Ben O'Connor. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

BEN O’Connor has had many great days in Croke Park but Charleville's loss in the All-Ireland Intermediate final was one of his most disappointing.

He admitted so afterwards as he reflected on a gallant but ultimately fruitless day at headquarters, where O'Connor had previously enjoyed great success with Cork and Newtownshandum.

“After playing against the breeze in the first half we were playing well, moving the ball nice and fast. Maybe it took us a few minutes in the second half to settle down and then, when we were just getting back into the game, Jack Doyle did something stupid."

Not that the Avondhu side's coach was blaming his young players, appreciating that hurling in Croker is tough.

“Look, that happens to all of us, there’s no point in blaming any fellow, the red mist descends and stuff like that.

“Then to rub salt into the wound, something that he hasn’t done all year, Cathal gets sent off. But fair play to the boys, they got it back to a point and we had a couple of chances but put them wide."

Even reduced to 13 players in the closing stages, Charleville came closer than the six-point losing margin suggests.

“We were pushing on there to try and get a score and we left ourselves open at the back and that happens when you are down two men.

“But I cannot thank the boys enough, they had a great year but it’s hard to say that after being beaten in Croke Park.

“But I am so proud of them and what they did. We have championship in Cork again in nine weeks, so we must dust ourselves down and go again.’’

The former Rebel All-Star admitted the season had brought so many positives.

“If we were told last January that we’d be playing senior hurling in 2019, we would certainly have taken that.

“But the further you go the greedier you get and it’s so disappointing when you get this far and be going home empty-handed.

“We got beaten by a good team today and the experience of the last year is bound to stand to fellas going up senior.

“But we’ll have to give them a few weeks break now and we’ll regroup again after that and hope they have the appetite to go again.’’

O’Connor admitted that Galway senior Niall Burke had caused problems for his side.

“He was good but we gave away some handy frees, I thought a few of them were dubious but on the losing team you’ll think that anyway.

“I told them going out that we had to keep the frees down but, unfortunately, we didn’t.”

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