Steelstown Ladies manager Thomas Cusack says 2021 Ulster heartache only made Brian Ogs stronger

Steelstown senior ladies manager Thomas Cusack says he knew everything he needed to know about his Senior Championship hat-trick heroes on the evening of November 13th 2021.

Joint Steelstown Ladies captains Ciara McGurk (left) and Aoife McGough receive the Derry Senior Championship trophy from Derry LGFA Chairperson, Sean Hamill after defeating Ballymaguigan in Glen on Sunday.
Joint Steelstown Ladies captains Ciara McGurk (left) and Aoife McGough receive the Derry Senior Championship trophy from Derry LGFA Chairperson, Sean Hamill after defeating Ballymaguigan in Glen on Sunday.

In the days after the Ballyarnett girls were forced to look on broken hearted as Kinawly lifted the Ulster Intermediate title thanks to an injury time smash and grab victory in Augher, Cusack admitted he was prepared to afford his disconsolate players some extra down time over the close season to deal with the disappointment. So did they take him up on his offer? Not a chance! In fact the Steelstown manager reveals it was the players themselves who INSISTED on an earlier than planned return to training in order to work as hard as possible on their game.

That attitude was evident in Glen on Sunday as the Brian Ogs recovered from the concession of a goal only 27 seconds in to the County Final to go on and dominate the decider and eventually come away with a 3-11 to1-05 victory, a win which Cusack couldn't have been prouder of.

"For themselves, after the disappointment in the Ulster final last year it was the girls who were insisting on coming back to training earlier this year than what we did last year," explained Cusack, "I was planning to leave it another month but they said, 'No, we want to get going at the start of January'.

Steelstown Brian Ogs players celebrate their Derry Senior Championship success after defeating Ballymaguigan in Glen on Sunday.

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"That attitude says everything about this special bunch of players. They were keen to get back and just wanted to get started again."

The Steelstown manager admitted he was worried it wasn't going to be their day when Aoife McGlone's goal inside the opening minute for Ballymaguigan was quickly followed by his side striking the post twice. However, the response the city girls found, keeping St Treas scoreless for the remainder of the first half, had Cusack describing Sunday's victory as the sweetest of his time in charge.

"It is brilliant and for some reason this feels the nicest (win). Just the way the girls conducted themselves on the pitch, they played controlled football and then against the breeze they just saw it out. It was a great game.

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"We had experience in there, some really big game players and they talked to everyone. They have been here before, they have had setbacks but they just get on with their business and get on with their game-plan."

Trailing 1-09 to 1-0, the second half saw Ballymaguigan use the elements to pin Steelstown back for the opening period but superb defence meant they never looked like grabbing a second goal.

"In the second half, Ballymaguigan were always going to come at us but we played a bit of football and took the sting out of it up the other end of the pitch with a couple of scores. The girls did, maybe not everything to my liking, but they got the job done," smiled Cusack

"We had chances and didn't take them and that's what kept Ballymaguigan in the game but Ballymaguigan are a good, young team, we knew they would keep going and going and never give up but overall, it has been a very good day."

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Attention will now turn once again to Ulster with Steelstown in line to meet the Antrim champions next month.

"Without a doubt the girls are good enough to give it a real go and we have experience in Ulster. Most of that team were there last year and know what is expected. We now have the Antrim champions at home on October 16th so we enjoy this victory and then get begin to prepare for that one."