FOR the people of Glen, that championship winning feeling was one that they had yearned after for more years than they would care to count.
For Malachy O’Rourke, the feeling of winning silverware isn’t quite as foreign.
When he took the Glen managerial post, there was only one target in his mind – to repeat the feat he managed 18 years previous with The Loup.
He inherited a side that knew they were close but were reeling from a 2019 final defeat against Magherafelt and then a quarter-final exit last year at the hands of the eventual champions, Slaughtneil.
The only word for their campaign leading to Sunday was dominance. But this one was the acid test. Were they now ready to make that last step?
“The boys put in serious hard work from the start of the year, and I suppose we all dreamt of a day like this that we could get over the line,” said the former Monaghan manager.
“When you see how much it means to so many people, it’s a great feeling. We worked hard all year and the boys really put their shoulder to the wheel.
“They were determined that if they got the chance again that they were going to grab it, and I suppose that’s what they did.”
As the championship ticked on, O’Rourke’s men only became more scintillating, free-flowing and relentless.
A 3-19 to 0-5 semi-final victory over The Loup sent the loudest of warning signs. They were gearing up for a battle.
“We felt that the boys were going well. They were training hard and they were really focused,” he explained.
“We had a good win in the semi-final but we always felt that there was more and we knew we would have to have more because of the tremendous experience that Slaughtneil have and their ability to win games. We knew we had to put in a big performance.
“We started the game very well and I suppose we never let go of that stranglehold we got at the start. It was a great performance and I’m delighted to get through it.”
The men in green and gold looked sharp from the get go, holding Slaughtneil to just one point in the opening half.
Leading 0-6 to 0-1 ticking into the final seconds before the break, a lovely move involving Tiarnan Flanagan and Conor Glass was finished off by Danny Tallon to the net. It was the ultimate sucker punch.
“Our display in the first half maybe merited being another couple of points in front, but we kicked a couple of wides so that goal gave us that buffer that was crucial at half-time.
“I suppose it meant that if we just kept our heads in the second half and played controlled football then it was always going to be hard for them to get back into it, and that’s how it turned out.”
For Glen it may turn out that county championships are like buses – you wait so long for one then suddenly many come along.
The age profile of this team and the frightening levels of talent would certainly indicate it. But for their manager, there’s no complacency, be it the upcoming Ulster campaign or the years to come.
“Derry football is very strong and you can never look too far ahead. I’m just delighted to get through today and delighted to get the first championship for the club.
“A lot will depend on the next couple of weeks and how the boys get on. We’ll not be putting any handbrake on them for the immediate future – we’ll let them enjoy it because that’s a big part of football as well.
“We’ll assess things at the end of the week and see how we’re going, but we’ll enjoy this one.”
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