Aaron Callaghan’s time as a player at Seaview in the 1990s featured a string of silverware with Crusaders but Saturday failed to provide another day to remember within the Belfast venue.
Callaghan lifted the League Cup in Crues colours as part of a trophy-packed period but his first showpiece stage in management finished with frustration.
The Carrick Rangers boss felt at least one of the two penalty shouts dismissed by referee Ian McNabb should have handed his side an advantage over Ballymena United.
“With the first one he was taken clean out of it but the second maybe momentum took the player over,” said Callaghan, who presented a Carrick fan with his runners-up medal. “Then for the second I felt our player was taken out in the middle of the park.
“I spoke to the match officials after the game as, overall, they contributed to a great game but I think certain decisions were critical.
“Overall, it was a fantastic advert for our game in the Irish League and it was a terrific match, especially with the Sky Sports television cameras here to capture everything.
“Hopefully, it will help grab the attention of a few more fans.”
Callaghan’s half-time team talk was dramatically altered by a goal for Allan Jenkins in the closing seconds of the first half, with Conor McCloskey’s injury-time drive closing out the cup tie in a 2-0 defeat for Carrick.
“It was a great performance by my lads but we could not finish on the right side of the result,” he said. “We were a little bit naive with our defending for the first goal and, after keeping our concentration so well, it was the first time we went to sleep.
“We got punished for it by Ballymena but they can do that as they get lots of players in the box and score goals.
“It proved a kick in the teeth and they were clinical with the first goal.
“You just have to admire the second strike but, at that stage of a final two minutes into injury-time, we had extra defenders up top.
“I would rather lose 2-0 trying for a last-gasp goal.
“But I am so proud of the effort put in by my players.”