Steelstown captain vows to take Championship trophy to Brian Og McKeever Anniversary Mass
Captain Neil Forester says the Bateson, Sheridan and Lee trophy will be brought to Steelstown Chapel on Sunday to celebrate Brian Og McKeever's anniversary Mass on a poignant weekend of celebration for the Ballyarnett club.
The precocious talented Brian Og McKeever would have turned 30 this year and be likely leading his beloved Steelstown side out in the championship final had cancer not robbed Derry football of one of it's finest young prospects. His impact is still felt everywhere at the club that bears his name and after finally sealing a first senior championship title on the weekend of Brian's 13th anniversary, Forester said it was important to everyone at Steelstown that the McKeever family was at the centre of the championship celebrations.
"Maybe it is fate or maybe it's destiny, maybe we had to suffer that much to make sure we did it on the days that it is," explained Forester, "Covid last year would have robbed us of this moment with these people. Spectators could not get to Bellaghy because of restrictions so maybe it was out destiny that we lost last year.
"Brian Og's anniversary Mass is tomorrow (Sunday). To bring that trophy back to Brian tomorrow, for the family, it is just so special We will take that trophy to the Chapel tomorrow and let them enjoy the moment."
Saturday was Forester fourth final and it was his superb late point that dragged the city men level before Cahir McMonagle late free sealed an historic victory. An emotional Forester said it was difficult to sum up a moment 34 years in the making.
"You can't sum it up," he smiled, "We've been chasing it for so long and it's not just the three finals, we've been so close in semi-finals, a replay against Claudy, Banagher beating us in a semi-final, Greenlough beat us before last year. We been knocking on the door for so, so long and you wonder if it is ever going to happen? Is it going to pass you by? Will we be able to deliver for the people who have given so much to this club.
"Right now I'm thinking back to all the coaches that we have had who put in a serous amount of work, Michael Heffernan, Tony Jackson, Donal McMahaon I see floating around there. I can't describe it but when you see the people's faces on the pitch after, people like Paul O'Hea, Eamon Gibson, Darren McDaid, Aidan Cleary, all these incredible people who have given so much to the club, to do it for them makes it so special but I can't put it into words properly."
The experienced Forester has played a role both on and off the pitch, having coached a number of the new breed of players coming through to bolster the Brian Ogs ranks.
"Amazingly now that is how old I am now," laughed Forester, "I had Donnacha Gilmore, Oran McMenamin, Cahir McMonagle, Adam Harrigan and Oran O'Kane, they were all through the Primary Schools programme. It is crazy to think that was the hard work we put in nine years ago.
"We started the primary schools programme, recruiting in schools, coaching them a bit more intensely in the club and the work has been paying off because people have put in such a serious effort. And it's not just the players, it's the coaches, the administrators, people like Anne and Declan Lindsay who give so much to the club. Declan never misses a match doing umpire and you know how hard it is to do umpire, people like that, it is just amazing for them to finally be able to celebrate with us.
"There are some amazing boys who will push me out very soon (laughs). The talent there at the moment is amazing, Donncha adds a whole new dimension, Jason McAleer has been brilliant, Morgan Murray had a fantastic championship with the amount of goals he's scored. Throw in a few of the old heads like Mark Foley, Marty Dunne, we have a nice balance there now."