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Saturday 24th February v. Crusaders (away) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

Reflection on the Shield Final
Uploaded Thursday, 25th Jan, 2018 at 12:31

MANAGER David Jeffrey spoke to the website about the defeat in Tuesday night's Toals Co Antrim Shield final.
"Over 24 hours later and I'm not any less disappointed. I didn't go to bed until the early hours of Wednesday morning pondering over our performance simply because, although it is good and commendable to get there, it's all about winning finals and the disappointment of defeat still remains. We came up against a strong Crusaders team built over a long number of years. Not long ago Crusaders were in the first division and a lot of rebuilding has gone on over several years, with league wins and Europe year on year, they are a strong and talented squad. That being said all four goals were mistakes that were capitalised on, we've looked back at every goal several times, and can identify clear and definite errors by ourselves. The real measure of Crusaders was that they capitalised on our mistakes.
On occasions we could have went in at half time a goal better off Kevin Braniff and Jonathan McMurray with chances. I have to give the players the credit they deserve, after the start to the game, they didn't capitulate. We talked long and hard at half time, we could have changed shape and set out to stifle Crusaders, but decided not to do that. Quite simply if we didn't believe we could go out and do something then what would be the point of playing. We got a goal back, with again another fantastic chance to go to 3-2, but instead another error saw Crusaders go and score to make it 4-2. Our supporters have to take credit for our best spell in the second half. No one got up and left at half time, in fact they sang all the harder and played a definite part in encouraging the team.
In the end, congratulations to Crusaders who were the better team on the evening. Their level of maturity in these situations and quality was evident. This is another challenge and learning step for us. The likes of Kofi Balmer and Matthew Shevlin will take great strides in learning from these situations, they are young and this part of a big learning curve do them no harm for them. The main lesson I feel our players need to absorb is the bitterness that comes with disappointment. We stood and applauded Crusaders and rightly so, but I said to players we do not want to be standing in that place too many times. Learning about the disappointment of defeat and fearing failure has to be our driver to going forward. Nearly two years ago we came in staring at possible relegation, and we are now ahead of where we thought we would be. It was great getting here, but now it's about winning and we have to strive to develop the squad."
Squad Development
In terms of the squad there have been a number of players moved on - Conor Brennan, Michael Gault, Neil Lowry, Eoin Kane, Daniel McIlhatton and Jake McNeill, and we haven't as yet brought anyone in. When it comes to recruitment it is about firstly, players being available at that time - for example this time last year we were able to work a deal to bring Joseph McKinney and Kevin Braniff to the club. But secondly, those we identify have to be ready to come. It is no secret that we have met with four players and have been very proactive in terms of looking to see if we can strengthen, but it depends very much on player availability. Also what is clear when talking to these players is the finances that are currently involved around the league. It is certainly something we have to consider how we strengthen within our existing wage structures as our salary cap does not increase with the additional European money until this summer. Finance is certainly critical, and even last night we've had several phone calls, but those players we have spoken to may well want to wait until the end of the season to consider their options. Whilst it would be good to strengthen now, to me it is always preferable to strengthen in the summer, and this summer in particular when our salary cap will rise and we can review the status of the current squad.
What we want to be careful about, is that, yes we are targeting a certain pedigree of players, and they are keen to speak with us, but we are also at times susceptible to their current clubs looking to close a new deal with them. But this is all part and parcel of the challenge of managing a team, a learning curve for Bryan and I and part of the progression of our journey here. The fact remains that players want to speak to us, and take time to consider the offers that we put to them.
I have maintained from day one that the supporter/club relationship at Ballymena United is like no other, the Shield final just confirms that more for us. I've never been someone to be so open in my role, but I strongly feel that supporters need to know and be involved in what we are doing around the club because they have been brilliant from the day and hour we took over here. It has always been, and still is our vow that we will look after this club in the same way that the supporters cherish it. We do what real families do and we learn together, we pick each other up when we're down and we celebrate together - always together."