28 May 2022

‘I just wanted a reaction’ - Aileach boss Emmet McLaughlin

After the disappointment of the Ulster Junior Cup final defeat, Aileach overcame Kildrum Tigers to reach the Knockalla Caravans Senior Cup final


Aileach, pictured earlier in the season, have reached the Knockalla Caravans Senior Cup final.

Emmet McLaughlin’s head spun as he looked at the stopwatch.

At 4-1 in front against Kildrum Tigers, the game looked done with the 89th minute approaching,

By the time the game had passed the 90th minute, it was 4-3 and Aileach were, all of a sudden, on the ropes.

Just three days after losing the Ulster Junior Cup final to Buncrana Hearts on penalties, after having a 3-1 lead eroded, Aileach were stunned again.

This time, though, they held on. Only just, but they clung on to reach the Knockalla Caravans Senior Cup final.

“The last five or six minutes were a bit of a blur for us,” McLaughlin said.

“I just thought the same thing was going to happen again. It felt like history was going to repeat itself. The end of the game was a bit mental. You don’t see the likes of that too often. I just wanted a wee bit of a reaction after the final.”

Aileach were pipped to the Jackie Crossan Premier Division title by Greencastle and the Ulster Junior Cup final loss cut them to the quick.

“I was just delighted to get another game,” McLaughlin said.

“It was a horrible feeling after the final. It would have been horrible for our season to end like that final. Some of the boys were jaded so it was good to get the quick turnaround.”

Shane McMonagle’s double and goals by Aaron Nash and Gavin Doherty had Aileach firmly in front. However, Kevin McHugh’s second of the night and another by sub Ethan Coll had Kildrum back into it and Aileach needed a Darren Gallagher intervention to prevent Jacob McDaid from forcing extra time.

McLaughlin said: At 4-1 up, we didn’t look in any danger. In fairness, I made five or six changes and they hit us back.

“Fair play to Kildrum, they came and had a go. I just asked for the reaction from our players to see if they could. They could have been forgiven if they hadn’t reacted. It was hard to lift them. n.

“You probably saw tired legs and wee errors. We were just floating around in midfield and everyone was trying to get on the scoresheet. We lost our shape and we were very vulnerable. 

“It felt like watching a schoolboys match at times at the end. Everyone was running everywhere, but we got the result.

“It looked like the job was done, but Kildrum always carry a threat with Kevin.”

Aileach will face Ulster Senior League side Bonagee United in the final, which is expected to be played on Thursday, May 26.

McLaughlin said: “It’s a massive achievement and it’s nice to get there. It’s a good reward after a long season.”

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