Steelstown's belief was key to historic Ulster success: says Cahir McMonagle
CAHIR McMonagle proved yet again he’s a man for the big occasion and raised his game accordingly to fire Steelstown Brian Ogs to a first ever Ulster title at Owenbeg on Sunday.
The Ballyarnett club had blitzed its way through the Ulster Championship scoring an incredible 9-39 in three games en route to the final where they came up against a stubborn, defence-minded and well organised Moortown outfit.
Finals are almost always tightly contested, cagey affairs with lots at stake and Steelstown certainly weren’t at their most prolific in front of the posts as a combination of nerves, poor decision making and execution left them chasing a low-scoring, drab encounter.
And yet, cometh the hour, cometh the man as fearless 20 year-old Steelstown forward McMonagle defied his tender years to kick Steelstown to victory with FIVE of their six points. And of course it wasn’t the first time on this memorable journey the club are currently on that he came to the fore.
McMonagle, who ensured himself of his place in the Steelstown history books with the winning free which secured a first Derry senior championship for the city club in 34 years, once again took the bull by the horns when manager Hugh McGrath needed one of his forwards to step up to the mark.
Trailing 0-03 to 0-01 at half-time, McMonagle sent over a close range free from an acute angle nine minutes into the second half to get the scoreboard ticking again.
A beauty of a point from play on 53 minutes drew Steelstown level and he added another free to stretch the game at 0-5 to 0-03 before sealing the win with another terrific effort late on. It was won ugly but the performance mattered little in the end.
A delighted McMonagle admitted Moortown’s resilient defensive display didn’t come as a surprise and claimed he always believed they would turn it around with a dominant second half showing.
“What a feeling. I can’t just put it into words yet,” beamed McMonagle. “We’ve gone from strength to strength since our county final and it all came together in the end.
“It was always going to be low scoring. It’s was January football and the weather made conditions tough but what a feeling! It just feels so good to finally get over the line. I’m buzzing.
“We made it hard for ourselves in the Derry final, just like today. Each round in Ulster we went from strength to strength but we always backed ourselves.
“We knew they would sit back, get bodies behind the ball. We weren’t playing the way we should’ve been but we were patient and came out in the second half, chipped away with a few scores and turned it around.
“We weren’t playing to our strengths and weren’t too happy. We just regrouped and took our chances when they came in the second half and it worked out for us.
“We always believed we could come back into it,” he insisted. “There weren’t going to be too many chances and when we did get our half chances we needed to take them.”
Emmett Deane came off the bench shoot Steelstown into the lead for the first time at 0-04 to 0-03 in the second half and was Steelstown’s only other player to register a score on the day.
Immediately after the final whistle McMonagle wasn’t aware he had scored five of the six point tally but he was just delighted to get to lift an Ulster title and continue on what has been an incredible journey.
They’re now 60 minutes away from a potential Croke Park All-Ireland Final and McMonagle is allowing himself to dream.
“I’m buzzing with that and to be able to play my part,” he smiled. “We’re in the semi-final now against either the Kerry or Clare champions but we all believe in ourselves.
“We didn’t expect to win Ulster and we certainly didn’t expect to win the All Ireland but we’ll give it a go after this.”