Quiet satisfaction rather than unbridled ecstacy was the overriding emotion of St Gall’s manager Lenny Harbinson after his side has clinically dismantled the challenge of Derry champions Loup in yesterday’s Ulster Club Football Final at Pairc Esler.
Harbinson, diligent and articulate, is only too well aware that his Antrim champions will have a big point to prove when they step onto the All Ireland Club stage in the New Year having lost to Connacht title-holders Salthill/Knockacarra in their last appearance in the decider four years ago.
“We will be meeting this year’s Connacht champions Corofin in the All Ireland semi-finals, but that will be a story for another day,” said Harbinson.
“For the moment, we can bask in the euphoria of a job well done in Ulster. I thought the quality of the side shone through in the second-half against difficult opponents.”
He conceded that St Gall’s had set out their goals early in the year and acknowledged that Antrim and Ulster titles now give rise to “a big sense of achievement.”
He added: “The players have been stepping up to the mark when asked to do so. Their fitness and commitment are admirable, but we will take a break in order to re-charge our batteries before the All Ireland series.”
St Gall’s skipper Colin Brady admitted that 2009 has been “a very long year for everyone” particularly those players who have been involved in both football and hurling.
“We have guys who have been playing virtually non-stop in terms of club and county action and we all need to enjoy a breather now,” said Brady.
“We knew we had to step up on our semi-final display against Clontibret to overcome Loup and I think we showed in the second-half in the form we’re capable of when the pressure is on.”
Loup manager John Brennan pinpointed his team’s inability to impose themselves at midfield and half-back in the second-half as contributory factors to their downfall.
“We competed well for the first 25 minutes, but they still had a four-point cushion at the break which maybe was not a totally true reflection of the first-half,” said Brennan.
“When they got a couple of early scores after the break they began to drift away from us and we could not contain them.”
And he expressed the view that St Galls are an even better side than many people believe.
“I take my hat off to them. They showed great fitness and composure. I hope that they go on and win the All Ireland Club title for Ulster because they are not always given the credit they deserve,” stated Brennan.