'Disappointed' Bates feels it's been a good year for 'Bellingham boys
O'Connell's boss Paddy Bates was understandably disappointed with the manner of Saturday's defeat to Meath opponents Curraha, but he conceded his team came a long way in 2017.
'No it wasn't a bad season at all. We'll reflect on that over the coming weeks and see what the plans are for 2018. But no, a good season. Has to be a good season from where we started, maybe where we were in March or April, maybe it ends up quite well, an intermediate championship, so it's not too bad.'
That said, he felt the 'Bellingham boys left something behind them at The Grove as a couple of 'slack' goals proved crucial to Curraha.
'I thought we played very well in the first half. I thought we got most things right. We set ourselves up right. We got into the game early on, and everything was going quite well and we were 7-4 up or 7-3 up at half time. Should have been a little bit more, definitely, and that would have made it a little bit more comfortable. Still at half time we were in a pretty good place. But they come out and blitzed us in the second half, and that's where we lost the game actually, in the first five or six minutes of the second half.'
Bates felt his team were perhaps not at their prolific best in front of the target, but he felt enforced changes may have contributed to that.
'We did change the team around a little bit, you saw that, so maybe the wrong guys were getting on the ball in the right positions. But that happens too some days. A couple dropped short, a couple went sideways, so we could have been a few more points up.'
Curraha seemed to recharge and re-group well at half-time, but Bates felt his side were holding them in check.
'I thought we weathered it, but then legs started getting a little bit tired. And they're a good team, they're a young team, they've a good system and just keep doing it. I have to say, we're bitterly disappointed.
'The second goal was very well taken, but it was a turn-over further up the field. Again, we're on the attack, you turn around and that's when you're at your weakest actually, when you're going that direction Brilliant goal. Brilliant goal by them, but poor on our behalf.'
Thereafter Cuarraha closed the game out well despite O'Connell's best efforts.
'They're good at keeping the ball and we knew that as well. We always needed to keep the pressure on and when you're chasing the game and trying to keep the pressure on, that's a double whammy. And that's where we ended up. But I have to say, we kept going. We kept going to the very end. You saw that at the very end, back to a one-point game. I have to be proud of the way the lads played.'
That never-say-die spirit is a trait that has impressed Bates this year.
'I was told that all along and it's been proven right through the championship. We've been very good and we've built and built got better and better. They never give up. But it's a little bit disappointing today.'
After the drama of 10 red cards in the previous round Bates felt the referee was excellent.
'The referee was exceptional I thought. Very, very good. Both teams went out and played football, good, hard football most of the time. I don't know what Stuart [Reynolds] did or said, but we'll find that out later maybe. I thought it was a good game and an enjoyable game for supporters. Both sets of supporters seemed to enjoy it.'