Steelstown captain Neil Forester says Ulster win is 'stuff of dreams'

Steelstown captain Neil Forester described the Brian Ogs Ulster Intermediate Championship victory as “the stuff of dreams” and said the reaction to the city club’s provincial triumph had been beyond belief.

Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 12:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 12:05 pm
Neil Forester celebrates Steelstown's historic Ulster title success.

Sunday’s victory for Hugh McGrath’s side capped a wonderful 48 hours for Derry Gaelic Games as the Brian Ogs followed up Banagher’s history making first Ulster Intermediate Hurling crown on Saturday by claiming the football title. It means the Oak Leaf county will have three representatives in the All Ireland Club series as Steelstown and St. Mary’s take their place alongside the hurlers of Slaughtneil with Forester struggling to put into words what the success means to the Ballyarnett club.

“It is even better today (Monday) but it hasn’t sunk it yet. It’s beyond belief,” reflected Forester, “We can scarcely believe what we have achieved. One of the lads was joking with the ribbon off the cup round his head and it said ‘AIB Club Championship’ and I was thinking I normally only see this on television. This doesn’t make sense but it is brilliant.

“The reaction has been class. It’s hard to describe what it means to us. When I woke up this morning it was great to read through all the articles and the emotion swept me up all over again.

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“It’s beyond everything you dreamed of or hoped for but it is so great to see people who have toiled away tirelessly for the club getting credit and finally getting a day in the sun. That part is fantastic and worth more than any trophy because there are so many people like that at our club and indeed in the wider city.

“And our success shows it can be done. There are other clubs in the city making strides with great people working away tirelessly as well so this shows it can be done.

“We had Conor McGoran, another great club man who has been away, singing at the clubhouse last night and when I looked around there were people crying, people who have been around the club for years, they were crying at what we had achieved. It is so humbling to see that and have been part of it.

“To be honest, it still hasn’t quite sunk in because it is so unbelievable.”

Steelstown captain Neil Forester races onto the Owenbeg pitch with the Ulster Intermediate Football Club Championship trophy.

Sunday’s final against Moortown turned with the introduction of second half substitutes Gareth Logue and Emmett Deane and Forester said their impact showed once again how important their strength in depth has been during the provincial run.

“The difference between our team and others has been somebody new has always stood up when it matters and that’s what happened in the final. Morgan Murray, Emmet Deane and Logie (Gareth Logue) were superb for us and I’m so happy for them all.

“‘Logie’ was the smallest man on the pitch and had the biggest impact. He was class. He changed the momentum of the game. You never get ahead of yourself but when Logue started winning those dirty breaks I was thinking, ‘We are in a really good spot here.’

“He won the horrible free in front of the posts. He literally put his body on the line for us and we end up winning an Ulster championship because of it. ‘Logie’ was the game changer but then you had ‘Deano’ as well, who has hardly played a minute and yet he’s on and scoring the point that put us ahead in an Ulster final.

“The respect I have for Deano is immense because he could have quit. Most boys would have walked away thinking they should be starting but he stuck at it and got his reward.

“Our panel won that final for us. Moortown wouldn’t have known anything about Emmet for example. He hadn’t played a minute of Derry or Ulster championship yet he comes on and scores the point that put us one up. Unbelievable.”

After the final whistle Forester shared an emotional embrace with Brian McKeever, father of Brian Og, after whom the club is named and with whom Forester would have played, and he revealed after three defeats in Derry finals, Brian Snr had stayed away from this season’s county final fearing he would ‘jinx’ the team.

“Brian has been to plenty of matches but as it has been documented we lost quite a few finals and Brian started to think he was jinxing us. He didn’t come to the county final because he thought it would be bad luck, that’s how desperate he was for us to win it so to see him after the game on Sunday, there are no words to describe that.

“Brian has such a connection to us. We are a link to his son and Brian Og, and what he meant to us all, is never far from any of our thoughts.”

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