FOOTBALL | Bellurgan boss confident despite the loss of three key players

Quinn, Armstrong and Smyth to miss Sunday’s final with Cosmos Bellurgan looking to win the cup for the fourth time

Bellurgan United have been hit by injuries and suspension to key players ahead of this Sunday’s NEFL Tully Bookmakers Challenge Cup final with Navan Cosmos at United Park.

Player-coach Paddy Quinn and winger Owen Armstrong will miss the game after limping off in last Saturday’s Kilmessan Shield final defeat against Quay Celtic.

Both players required stitches and suffered a concussion after a nasty collision while Quinn also broke his nose and will undergo an operation next week.

“They’re both safe,” said Bellurgan United manager, Padraig Gollogley. “There’s nothing that can’t be fixed and that’s the important thing.”

Bellurgan United’s Owen Armstrong (11) and Paddy Quinn (9) are out of Sunday’s final after a clash of heads against Quay Celtic last weekend. PICTURE: CIARAN CULLIGAN

Left-back John Smyth will also have to watch on from the stands after an appeal against his recent red-card against Trim Celtic fell on deaf ears.

The trio have been highly influential for Bellurgan this season but Gollogley believes there is enough quality in his squad to cope with their loss.

“We’re badly depleted but we still have a great chance of winning the game,” he told Dundalk Sport on Friday afternoon.

“We have good players to come in and there isn’t much in terms of quality between them. We might not have the strength in depth that we’d like but we’ll be very, very competitive.”

First campaign

Gollogley took charge of Bellurgan United at the start of the season and has enjoyed an impressive first campaign at the reins.

Despite losing just four games, Bellurgan’s NEFL Premier Division title push fell short, the peninsula side finishing in third place, five points behind champions Muirhevnamor.

They were beaten to more silverware by another Dundalk team last weekend but this Sunday presents an opportunity to finish the season on a high and Gollogley is confident his players will deliver.

“We’ll get the ball down, attack and try and go out with a bang,” he said. “If we lose, it will be in the right manner but if we play the way I know we can then I don’t think we’ll be on the end of a defeat.

“We were very poor against Quay Celtic last week,” he acknowledged, “and they fully deserved to win the game.

“We’ve lost games this season against teams we were expected to beat and maybe we’ve been guilty of taking our foot off the pedal slightly.

“We spoke about that in training this week. If the Quay game was our last one of the season we would have been gutted but we have a cup final to come and that’s a great place to try and make things right.”

Nice blend

The Bellurgan team that takes to the field on Sunday will be a combination of experienced campaigners and talented youngsters.

Veterans Diarmuid Murphy and Ray Finnegan were part of the Bellurgan squad that overcame Rock Celtic in the 2003 final — also at United Park.

Those two, along Niall Donnelly, Robert Arthur, Owen Traynor and Ciaran Sheelan also have winners medals to their name from the 2015 final, when Bellurgan beat Sunday’s opponents, Navan Cosmos, at Oriel Park.

The Bellurgan United team celebrate after winning the Tully Bookmakers Cup in 2003. Ray Finnegan (front row, first on the left) and Diarmuid Murphy (front row, third from the right) will play in this Sunday’s final

“We have a nice mix, a core of older players and a number of young lads,” said Gollogley. “When you look at Ray Finnegan, he’s a great player. He’s as close as you’d get to a professional in junior football.

“Then we have the likes of Stephen Finnegan who has been excellent in the middle of the park for us. I’d ask people to watch out for him. He has a great range of passing.

“Playing on the grass pitch will suit players like him,” he added, “and I’m confident we can create plenty of chances.”

Coaching career

Gollogley started acquiring his coaching badges during a nine-year spell in Australia. The former Dundalk Drogheda United centre-back possesses a B licence and has applied to study for his A license.

He described this season as a ‘transitional’ one for the club but has yet to decide whether to stay on at Tom Flynn Park next season.

“It’s almost 10 months since we started pre-season and I’ve a holiday booked for Monday morning so I’ll worry about that when I get back from it,” he laughed.

“Everybody has made a great effort this year. Myself and Paddy Quinn were asked to come in and put a fresh look on things and we have tried to bring a bit of professionalism in.

Bellurgan United manager Padraig Gollogley. PICTURE: CIARAN CULLIGAN

“The older lads have really bought into what we’ve tried to do, which is give good analysis and information. It’s easy to criticise players for 90 minutes but our view would be to try and give advice to players

“We’ve tried to integrate young players into senior football and the numbers have generally been very good all season,” he continued.

“We’ve had help from the lads at StatSports who have showed the lads their figures and numbers in training. That gives players confidence and there’s good banter involved in it so we’ve a good spirit.

“It’s a great community to be involved in and we would all like to bring that cup back to Fitzpatrick’s on Sunday night.”

Kick-off at United Park in Drogheda is 2.30pm on Sunday.

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