The weekend win saw Steelstown retain the trophy and made it three county titles in five years but they were denied the opportunity to compete at provincial level last season by the Covid pandemic, and McGough is anxious to make up for lost time.
“Covid robbed us of the chance to properly compete in Ulster last year,” explained the Brian Ogs full-back whose lung-busting runs out of defence proved the catalyst for her team’s superb fourth quarter against ‘Screen, “We took on the Monaghan champions at home and now this year we have the Donegal champions at home and so hopefully we can enjoy ourselves tonight but be back in to refocus early next week and get the heads down for Ulster. We have nothing to lose because we have won the county title which was the main aim.
“This is the best bunch of girls. I have never felt as prepared to go out and play a final. It might not have seemed like it at the start of the game but I have never played with a better bunch of girls so I fully back us and believe we can go further than the Derry champions ever had. It’s not going to be easy, it never is and we are up against the best in Ulster but I don’t think this is the end.”
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McGough, who was named ‘Player of the Match’ in the 1-08 to 0-04 victory over Ballinascreen in Celtic Park, admitted the champions had not been at their best in the final but says they showed their true colours in the final 15 minutes when Steelstown outscored ‘Screen by 1-04 to 0-01.
“We made that very hard for ourselves. We knew when you come up against ‘Screen, it’s never easy. That’s been highlighted over the past couple of years when it has been us or ‘Screen, so we knew what we were going to get today and we were a bit rusty, a bit nervous at the start.
“When we turned that game around in the last quarter, that’s how Steelstown play and I’m so proud of the girls. They were excellent.
“I think we are the first ever team from Steelstown to win back to back championships as well so it’s also club history which is an unbelievably proud moment for us all.”
So just what was her thought process as lifted her team with two eye catching 80-yards second half runs that kick-started her team into top gear?
“Well, I’m always told to hold me line but I just thought, ‘What is there to lose?’ The way the first half was going, I thought I’m not going home today thinking that we could have given more. Yeah, a few people have said those couple of runs got us moving. We needed something and if they lifted the team, then that’s great.”
Saturday’s game saw ‘Screen turn around 0-3 to 0-2 ahead at half-time and McGough believes the experience of last year’s final, when Steelstown defeated Ballymaguigan, stood to them when they were up against it.
“After last year with the win and then Covid pulling things to a stop, we did feel like we had some unfinished business and wanted to get back here again but we were trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves.
“Of course the final was always the focus but we do have the first round of Ulster now against the Donegal champions. We had that in the back of our minds as well because we didn’t get to proceed in Ulster last year but we always knew we had a huge hurdle to get over first in the Derry final.
“It’s difficult when you are reigning champions. ‘Screen beat us two years ago so it was all to play for today. They were here to get their title back as they would see it and we were out to defend out title.
“Last year definitely stood to us after we got past that nervous start to the game. Us girls are very hard on ourselves. We were chatting before the game and maybe in the past a bit of that belief in ourselves was missing. Being from the city as well, it is not always easy because you are not always backed but we backed ourselves. We knew we could do it, it was just a matter of going and proving that and that’s what we did.”