Desertmartin manager O'Neill celebrating two Championship titles in six months!

How many managers can say they've won the same championship twice in the same year?

Saturday, 30th October 2021, 7:54 pm
Updated Saturday, 30th October 2021, 7:56 pm

Well, Desertmartin's Kevin O'Neill for one.

O'Neill took over the reigns when county duties forced Slaugthneil player Chrissy McKaigue to step away after guiding the Martin's to the delayed 2020 final which ended a 53 year wait for a Championship tile when Craigbane were defeated at the end of June this year.

But the Joe Brolly Cup had barely had time to accumulate dust in the Desertmartin trophy cabinet by the time Martin Breen was raising it once more, this time in Celtic Park after Sean Dolan's were defeated in the 2021 final in Celtic Park on Saturday.

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Desertmartin players celebrate their JFC Final victory over Sean Dolans in Celtic Park on Saturday afternoon last. (Photo: George Sweeney.) DER2143GS - 110

"We had to wait last year and finally got the chance at the start of this year and the boys took, albeit probably not with the performance we wanted but we got over the line and that was the main thing," said O'Neill of the 2020 win, "This year we really put an emphasis on backing that win up, trying to get the club to a better place. I think any management team that comes in, that's what they want. They want to progress the players and get them to a better level.

"We have a fantastic bunch of players, there's something lie 40 plus men out training every night and with a reserve set up. It's for everybody in that group, in the club, the committee - it's fantastic for everyone and, yes, maybe championship wins do come along a bit like buses but it's just great.

"We are absolutely delighted with the win on the day."

Going into Saturday's game as overwhelming favourites, O'Neill's troops stuttered slightly in the first half before their class told after the break, hitting nice scores without reply to complete a 0-12 to 0-2 victory in which 202 All Ireland winning minor Lachlan Murray hit six frees.

Sean Dolan’s Ruaidhri McGurk and Gearoid McDermott grapple with Desertmartin’s Lachlan Murray during the JFC Final in Celtic Park on Saturday afternoon last. (Photo: George Sweeney). DER2143GS – 111

"There is no doubt about that (that we were the team to be shot at)," added O'Neill, "It's hard to know how these players would respond to that because they have come drown from Intermediate football where they were maybe underdogs in most of the games but we knew coming in this year, especially after winning last year, that we would be the team to beat.

"It's sometimes hard for players to change their mindsets but these boys took it on board and listened to a lot of what we are trying to do as a team. The preparation that we put in for each team since the championship started has shown that, we just couldn't afford to be beaten.

"If it is down to myself, Higgy, Danny or any of the players to have an input on other teams, it all comes together and it's nice for it to come off because it does not always happen that way. There are management teams all over the country - and I'm sure Sean Dolan's are the same, they put a massive effort into this game and all their other games - but it doesn't always come to the fore so it is great for our club to get over the line."

Their second Junior Championship title in six months means a first ever Ulster Club championship campaign, something O'neill's described as "bonus territory" for the south Derry club.

"We are into bonus territory now," added O'Neill, "If I had a pound for very person that has said to me about an Ulster campaign between the semi-final and the final I'd be rich.

"Honestly, our focus had to be on this final. Sean Dolan's fully warranted their place in the final. They had been underdogs in every game, they were underdogs today again but they put it up to us. The fight they brought to us, honestly, they are a credit to their club but we now have an Ulster campaign to look forward to

"From now onwards we'll start to think about where we go from here. There is some fantastic work going on around the club. The Chairman, Pat, and the committee are trying to get the club back into a better place with different things and the work that goes on at underage level - I know it goes on at every club - but it wouldn't be right for me not to mention it today.

"The work that goes on behind the scenes, we are taking the plaudits today but there's a lot more to it than these players, it's everybody together."

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Desertmartin regain Junior Championship title as superb second half ends Dolan's...