Glentoran manager Alan McDonald will today sit down with his own bosses, hoping to hammer out a new contract and then set about putting his plans into place for the challenge of retaining the Glens’ newly acquired JJB Sports Premiership title.
The smile that adorned the face of McDonald on Saturday, after watching his side clinch their first Gibson Cup in four years, was still in evidence yesterday when he was awarded the Harp Lager Northern Ireland Football Writers Manager of the Month award for April.
The gong was just rewards for McDonald after Glentoran stepped up to the plate and forced their way over the finishing line during the month to finally wrestle local football’s biggest prize away from their bitter rivals, Linfield.
The Glens, crucially, drew with the Blues early in April — Michael Halliday’s last minute equaliser proving to be the turning point in the race for the title — before beating Crusaders, drawing with Lisburn Distillery and then battling through two tough tests against Coleraine and Cliftonville.
Victory in that last one sparked scenes of unbridled joy in east Belfast and, when collecting his award yesterday, the former Northern Ireland international admitted that all the hard work, throughout what was a very difficult campaign, was worth it.
“It’s been a very, very hard season and if you ask the players who have been around for a while, they will tell you that it was one of the most difficult that they have had to play in,” said McDonald.
“There were times when we weren’t playing particularly well — that run in December (the Glens losing to Ballymena United and, heavily, to Linfield on Boxing Day) stands out and we were in dreadful form around that time.
“We managed to bounce back from that but there were other times when, as I said on so many occasions in the season, it was a roller-coaster ride.
“One week we were up, the next we shot ourselves in the foot.
“But taking all of that into account, all the hard work we put in throughout the season, it was all worth it in the end. You don’t get anything in life without having to work hard for it and we worked hard for that title.”
He added: “Those scenes on Saturday will live for me for the rest of my life — it was such a brilliant day. It means everything to me. If you ask any manager they will tell you that this is the big trophy — the one everyone wants to win.
“It’s played out over the course of 38 games and the team that comes out on top is the best — no one else can say otherwise.
“What happened at the end of it all on Saturday was just amazing and it’s something that I will never forget.”
This was McDonald’s third Manager of the Month Award — the first two coming back to back at the beginning of the campaign.
When he picked up the first one, he said at the time he hoped to be picking another up in April because he would know then that Glentoran would have achieved ‘something special’.
“It was a flippant comment I made at the time and thankfully it turned out to be the case,” he smiled. “The award’s not just for me though, I have praised the players before but I have to take the time to pay tribute to my staff who have been through it all with me and I can’t thank them enough.”