O'Neill's Derry Senior Football Championship Final
Derry Senior Final 'Man of the Match’ Emmett McGuckin revealed Magherafelt believed they could end their 41 year championship wait even before a ball was kicked in this season’s competition.
The Rossas were heavily criticised last season for a viral video clip of their packed defence in the defeat to Slaughtneil and came into this season’s competition to little fanfare. Being drawn at home to reigning champion Eoghan Rua in the opening round contributed to their long pre-championship odds but McGuckin says they always had belief in themselves.
“We always fancy ourselves. We’ll always come into a game quietly confident but, yeah, nearly every game we went into, we were big underdogs and we played that underdog card relatively well,” explained McGuckin who hit 0-3 in the final.
“Coleraine the first day, then Ballinascreen, those two have been two of our bogey teams in years gone by, and we got over both of them.
“We came to this final and there’s no point lying, we were massive underdogs again. Glen put out an unbelievable Slaughtneil team and credit to them, they are a quality team but as Danny Heavron said in his speech, these days don’t come around too often.
“Glen will be disappointed today but it had to go one way and thankfully for Magherafelt, it went our way.
“Man of the Match is a nice thing to get but it’s all about the team and community; the club and the whole town. This is massive for us and we’ll never forget this day.
“It’s been a long time coming. You can see Danny Heavron, Jared Monaghan, Darren O’Neill, myself, John Young - some of us are into the 15th, 16th year of senior football. This is my 12th or 13th year and we have never got near this.
“This year things just fell our way and the credit must go to everyone involved. You see the support Magherqafelt bring to a big game and those supporters are a real credit too.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet and probably won’t for a day or two but to get over the line in the fashion we did was great. We fought right to the end. This win is massive.”
McGuckin’s manager, Tyrone native Adrian Cush revealed the players had used last season’s criticism as motivation ahead’s of the championship victory.
“I thought it was very, very unfair,” explained Cush, “People were telling us we were ultra-defensive in 2018 – we were the top scorers in Derry, second top scorers in the reserves and an U21 championship.
“Everybody was basing it on two minutes’ football against Slaughtneil. I saw Dublin playing everybody behind the ball this year, Kerry playing everybody behind the ball when they were five points down – I didn’t see anybody slating them. “Yes, we used it. If you want to go into the changing room, there’s clippings on the wall. We’ve got a series of tweets that people wrote about us that are on our WhatsApp group. All that was used as motivation.
“It didn’t come from me or the management, the players are self-motivated. We finished with eight U21s and (Michael) McEvoy would have been nine but he’s done his cruciate. The future’s bright, but there’s no guaranteeing the future. This is a tough championship to win. The boys deserve all the credit, they’re the ones crossed the line and did the business.”
It took the best part of an hour for the Celtic Park pitch to clear following John Joe Cleary’s final whistle and McGuckin said the scenes of celebration show the potential that exists within the Magherafelt club.
“There are probably not too many teams can celebrate in this fashion,” smiled the former Derry county man, “Winning the county title is massive for any club but for our club and our community, this is huge.
“There are people here who have put in so much work behind the scenes, work they don’t want to be seen or heard about, work they don’t expect any credit for. There are women over this past six or seven weeks have been feeding us after training out of their own accord, this win is for people like that. This is not just about the 30 or 40 man panel, it’s about a town and a community. We have had messages from all over the world.
“I’m just after face timing a friend in Dubai there after the game and this means as much to him as it does to us. This is special.”