McGeely Group Derry Intermediate Championship Final
His post match interview was barely a minute old but Foreglen manager, Damien O’Connor had already referenced ‘community’ on five separate occasions.
Football is community for the O’Brien’s.
“This is just overwhelming, for myself, the management, the players - the effort everyone has put in all year - but look around, look at the green and gold around you, that says it all,” explained O’Connor, “This is all about community, it’s all about our club and our spectators, we join as one.”
The Foreglen manager was struggling with the interview. Not because he couldn’t find the words, rather because the deluge of well wishers all anxious to share in a first success since 2013, a success about more than just 20 odd players.
“Yes, this is a bigger result than 2013, one hundred per cent,” added O’Connor, “No disrespect to the lads and management of that 2013 team but this team here, I value this team big time.
“This is my second year managing this team. We suffered an early exit last year against Banagher. We learned from that and have been in the gym since November with Jason Muldoon. We have went through a full year’s work to get to this stage today and this just shows what can happen with that type of commitment.”
O’Connor’s play to drop Sean O’Connor back to pick up Claudy dangerman, Oran Armstrong worked superbly, freeing up Pauric Morahan to attack and creating more space for the likes of Oisin and Eoghan Duffy.
“We moved Sean back to mark young Armstrong because we knew Pauric had the potential to go forward and score. We said before we went out, we have to keep it tight and we were pleased going in at half-time only one point down. “We knew in the second half we had to play smart with the breeze. A breeze doesn’t guarantee you a win in football. We played it smart with the breeze and that came through. Again, with our bench, and no disrespect to any man who came off, they gave it their all, but we used our bench and you saw what it gave us as well. This is for the whole community, not just management and players, this is for everybody.”
If Sunday’s victory was unexpectedly comfortable, O’Connor said the players had already proved their character by fighting back from the brink against Faughanvale in their drawn opening round tie. Even against Claudy in the final, Foreglen withstood a second half scare when John Duffy superbly cleared Conal White’s fisted effort off the line as the O’Brien’s refused to yield.
“We were nearly but we weren’t gone (against Faughanvale). Then again, when a team is so many points down and loses so many key men, it shows a great character that we came back and then, in the replay, Faughanvale had no answer to us because we had our homework done. That (clearance) was a big, big moment and bravery as always from John (Duffy). John will fight tooth and nail for every ball and that’s just typical of the character of John Duffy, putting his head on the line. That’s just the way the man plays his football.”
The experience provided by men like Damien’s brother, Kevin, Oisin Duffy, Mark McCormick and a brilliant late cameo from Ciaran McFeely, was probably the difference between the teams as Foreglen pulled away after half-time to eventually win by a comfortable six point margin at 0-5 to 0-9.
“We talked about it,” said O’Connor, “We pulled the younger lads that wouldn’t have been in the 2013 team aside and told them not to let the occasion get to them because an hour’s football can pass you by very quickly on the big occasion. To be fair to them they stood up to it.
“Again though, when you have leaders on the field like my brother, Kevin, Oisin Duffy, Shane Duffy - our team is backboned by boys with experience. When we go out through those gates we are all brothers and that’s the message that was given to those boys going out over that white line today.
“We knew as long as we stayed nip and tuck with them, we knew with the breeze that we had in the second half, we knew if we played measured football, not kicking it out over the line and stuff, we knew we would have them.”