Steelstown players celebrate their Intermediate title success over Greenlough. Pic by Mary K Burke.
Relief. That was Hugh McGrath’s take on finally getting over the line as Steelstown won their first Intermediate title at last.
He admitted it wasn’t this side’s best showing of the season. Nor were they cohesive. And they didn’t play the brand of football they wanted. But there was only one currency Steelstown were dealing in. Silverware. That’s all Saturday was about.
“It just matters that you are ahead at the end of the game,” said McGrath.
“I wasn’t nervous in any way,” he told his side before the club’s historic hour. “I was jealous that they got to get the chance to go out and show what they were worth and show what was inside them.”
And, coming back from last season’s defeat and in the manner which they did, that – in McGrath’s opinion – is the Steelstown’s calling card.
“It tells you all you need to know about the group,” he said.
The burden of three final defeats didn’t come into the narrative. It was a new management team, with a sprinkling of new players.
At different times this year, McGrath beat the drum of a new beginning. Donncha Gilmore is now an All-Ireland winner. Five championships goals later, Morgan Murray has arrived on the scene and like Oran Fox, he benefitted from a league campaign that McGrath treated as glorified friendlies.
It wasn’t about hard luck stories or flashbacks from yesteryear.
“All we could base any chat around was what we done this year so far,” McGrath again stressed.
“We were confident that we’d get ourselves in enough positions to take chances, that we’d create enough chances to get ourselves over the line.
“We knew it would be tough, you don’t play the champions and get it easy. We knew it would be tough all the way through and it was about grinding it out.”
Points from Jason McAleer and Eoghan Bradley (2) had Steelstown three points clear after eight minutes, but the sides were level (0-5 each) at the break.
“We weren’t panicking because we knew these things happen,” insisted the Steelstown boss. "We went a couple down at the start of the second half. Maybe there was a bit of panic and you are going to feel that pressure when you have a couple of forwards like Greenlough have.”
But McGrath trusted their leaders. Skipper Forester. Impact man Mickey McKinney. Midfielder Ryan Devine. All players from the 2006 minor team he coached when he arrived at the club.
“You have confidence that you have a group that will drive you on and get you over the line and that’s the way it panned out,” McGrath said.
The fact they were still at the coal face of their title bid spoke volumes. McKinney was crying with total elation. “Is this real?”, bellowed Forester amid the pandemonium.
“To go so long until now, it shows the type of characters that they are. They hung in there and had the belief in the group that was coming behind them,” McGrath added.
“They are emotional. It shows how much the clubs means to them; they have a desire to win.”
And on the weekend that marked the 13th anniversary of Brian Óg McKeever’s death. The club now carries his name.
For McGrath, the final quarter told the story of the McKeever family.
“That’s the way he would’ve played his game. If you look at the way Neil (Forester) drove out, Eoghan Concannon hammered everything that was near him.
“That was Brian Óg McKeever, that’s what he did and there are plenty around here that know that’s what he did.
“They were part of him, they saw him do it and the young people coming through are now aware of it too.”
“He is never too far from our thoughts and Charlene (Griffiths) as well, she played exactly the same way. For us to be able to do this for the McKeever family and give them something to celebrate, we are proud do to that.”
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