All Ireland triumph is biggest tribute Steelstown could pay Brian Og McKeever says manager Hugh McGrath
Steelstown manager Hugh McGrath says Sunday's historic All Ireland triumph is the greatest tribute the club could ever pay to the memory of Brian Og McKeever.
A former underage team-mate of current captain Neil Forester, Brian Og, lost his brave battle against cancer in 2008, a loss that prompted the renaming of the club in honour of a young man whose impact cannot be counted in his tender years. Everyone in Derry already knew who Brian Og was before Steelstown lifted their inaugural Championship title in November but his story has since become familiar with first, the Gaels and wider communities of Ulster and now Ireland thanks to the exploits of a squad of players who have embodied the spirit of a remarkable young man.
For McGrath there can be no fitting tribute to Brian Og.
"We had the pleasure of watching the young man playing minor football and schools football and whatever else," explained an emotional McGrath after the 3-14 to 2-05 victory over Trim, "We are immensely proud of him and of why we are called after him.
"Today showed Brian Ogs' spirit and what we are about. We can't pay him any bigger tribute than today."
McGrath led Steelstown into senior football for the first time in their history during his last term as manager but even that pales against an achievement and a squad which will be celebrated at Pairc Bhrid for decades to come and McGrath stressed ti had been no flash in the pan success for the city side.
"Maybe I timed coming back very well when you have the likes of Oran McMenamin and Donnacha Gilmore to come in to the ranks," smiled McGrath, taking in the moment under the Hogan Stand, "You have Cahir McMonagle, who has really only committed to Gaelic in the last couple of years, playing the way he is playing. Morgan Murray, another guy putting his shoulder to the wheel to play Gaelic Games.
"Maybe it's just luck but my big thing, I have huge belief in the group and I think that seeps through. I'd like to think it seeps through.
"You have guys like Dermot McBride, Paul McMenamin, Raymond Tracey, Marty Dunne - even when he got injured he's looking after the keepers - Gary Cunningham, we all bring different things to the party.
"The attention to detail was huge. The guys committed to it properly and we gave them clear and concise instructions. Those are things that are carry-ons from Eamonn Gibson who was there before us, Paul O'Hea picked up the pieces as well before Gibby. It has been a process, it hasn't just been this year.
"You cannot just turn up one year and decide this is the way we ware going to go. That's the way Paul set them up; Eamonn improved on that and then we were lucky enough to come in this year and get it over the line."
Steelstown's day got off to the worst possible start when Trim's Mikey Cullen hit the net after only three minutes. The Brian Ogs also had to withstand the harshest of red cards for the unfortunate Eoghan Concannon who was dismissed in the 36th minute for an innocuous foul on Ciaran O'Rourke.
Despite those isolated setbacks, Steelstown never looked in trouble with McGrath revealing he had full faith in his players to bring the title back to Steelstown.
"It wasn't the ideal start (laughs) but, look, we won the next kick-out and went the length of the pitch so you always believe there is that in you. You always believe you are capable of getting to grips with the game," said McGrath.
"Even before the game, with the delay in the junior final, the guys were so relaxed in the changing room. We came here to Croke Park for a walk around last night (Saturday) and it was the best thing we could have done. There was no coming in today and looking around us. We came here today to do a job and that job was carried out to the point.
"To put in a performance like that in a national final at headquarters is unbelievable. It is indescribable. We have said it all year but these cubs just love playing football and they just want to go out and play. If you leave your self exposed or open at the back, our boys are gin to go through the gate."
"When you got through our campaign, the only team that really, really put it to us in real terms was Moortown who had a plan to stop us and it nearly worked. Look, maybe I'm giving away what teams have to do with us next year but we have a lot of people to come in, we've a lot of things to build upon and that's what out plan is.
"We want people within the city, people within our club to say, Gaelic Games is the way forward, to look at what it is about and hopefully it can encourage them to be part of something bigger.
So what's the limit for a club that became the first in Derry to lift a junior or Intermediate All Ireland title.
"Look, who knows. We are not worried about limits now, we are going to go and enjoy ourselves. Before you know it the new season will be upon us and we will have different challenges.
"Derry really is a competitive county. The seniors beat Offaly fairly comfortably in the National League today and it should show you where football is in the county. For us, it is majorly important to build on what we have done and welcome senior teams to the city and shows them what we can do. We can only improve playing against these sides.