Derry championship win changed how Steelstown sees itself claims Brian Ogs manager McGrath

Ulster Intermediate Football Championship Final: Steelstown Brian Ogs v Moortown (Sunday, Owenbeg, 1pm)

Steelstown manager Hugh McGrath believes November’s inaugural Derry championship success has instilled the confidence which has guided the club to Sunday’s Ulster Intermediate Championship final against Tyrone champions, Moortown, at Owenbeg (1pm).

As well as securing the memorable 0-9 to 0-8 victory over Greenlough that day, Cahir McMonagle’s historic late free lifted the lid on 34 years of emotions and banished a ‘nearly men’ tag that had dogged the city club after three Derry final defeats. And according to McGrath, that victory in Ballymaguigan provided more than a trophy, it provided a new sense of esteem.

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“The boys are very confident in their own skin and I think, as a club, this is the first time in our history we could ever say that,” explained the Steelstown manager, “We have always felt there has been a monkey on our backs and we had to get over the line for the first time but since we’ve got over the line, that air of confidence - people might feel it is cocky, I don’t know - but these lads are confident in their own ability and in that of those around them.

The Steelstown Brian Ogs panel pictured before the Derry Intermediate final in November. (Photo George Sweeney)

“We don’t feel we have any weak link. I’m sure Moortown have identified one or two areas where they think we are but we don’t think we are so it’s up to them to try and expose that. If they can and if that gets them over the line then good luck to them. We are comfortable in how we are set up and how we will set up in the game.”

Bar long term absentee Marty Dunne, McGrath has a full panel to select from and more than a few selection headaches to ponder ahead of what looks a tight final.

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“It has been an unbelievable week for the club,” adds McGrath, “We trained last night and those in pole position to start in the final got an absolute trimming from those who were looking more like being on the bench and I don’t just mean the scoreboard, I mean physically. They battered them.

“It was hilarious to watch but I was thinking, ‘Great, these lads have just made my life even more difficult.’ Take for example Morgan Murray, who got on the Intermediate ‘Team of the Championship’ and he hasn’t even been starting in our front six. That says everything about all the lads in the panel and the levels they are pushing themselves to.

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“Emmet Deane is another who is flying in training. He has got himself into a bit of rhythm again and since then he has taken off so there are plenty of head scratchers in terms of selection. We have different option to do different things if the game dictates and we won’t be afraid to try them out.”

Steelstown’s headline hogging high scoring run to the final has seen some install the Brian Ogs as favourites, a tag which amuses McGrath against a club that has been Tyrone senior champions on four occasions.

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“Are we? I couldn’t tell you. I never look anywhere near that sort of stuff but why would we be favourites having only won our first championship a month or two back and playing against a Moortown team that have been Tyrone senior champions four times. Their pedigree is there.

“Moortown are a very good team, a really good, experienced unit and will not make anything easy for us. They’ll get men back and try to turn the game into a dogfight so I’m not expecting the free flowing stuff of some other games.

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McGrath has overseen a few ‘firsts’ across his two stints as Steelstown manager but said he’s happy to stay in the background of a young Steelstown side he believes have huge potential.

“I suppose I have achieved quite a few firsts with Steelstown, with Magee University, with my own club at home and with Derry Development squads who were the first to win a Jim McGuigan Cup. It’s always nice but it’s really not about that.

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“You’ll see me in very few team photographs because I realise this is not about me. All we are doing as coaches is pointing the boys in the right direction. When you are about a group like this squad they are that infectious that all you want to do is the best for them, you don’t really care anything else.

“When I finished with Steelstown the last time I had offers to go here, there and everywhere but I wasn’t interested. If it is not personal to you it makes it a chore and a job. What I am doing now is not a chore, it’s not a job. It is helping a group of boys who I know well, boys I am friendly with and who are part of a great club who accepted me in 17 years ago. If I can do anything to help them be successful then that is what it is about. I just want this group to do well.”