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Title means so much to all in Magherafelt: McGuckin

 

Shared success: Magherafelt captain Danny Heavron and star forward Emmett McGuckin (right) join young Rossa fan Anton Campbell with the John McLaughlin trophy after Sunday’s Derry SFC final
Shared success: Magherafelt captain Danny Heavron and star forward Emmett McGuckin (right) join young Rossa fan Anton Campbell with the John McLaughlin trophy after Sunday’s Derry SFC final
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Technology was put to good use on the Celtic Park pitch in the aftermath of Magherafelt's first Derry Championship crown in 41 years by man of the match Emmett McGuckin.

"I'm just after FaceTiming a friend in Dubai there after the game and this means as much to him as it does to us. This is special," he told reporters after his three-point salvo helped them see off the challenge of Glen, Watty Graham's.

"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 that they don't expect any credit for.

"There are women over this past six or seven weeks who have been feeding us after training out of their own accord, and this is for people like that. This is not just about the 30 or 40-man panel, it is a town and a community. We have had messages from all over the world."

Magherafelt had togged out 32 players, as per the matchday programme, but the average senior training panel and support structure for any successful team has mushroomed in recent times, as explained by the 28-year-old teacher.

"These days it's not even a 20-man effort any more, it's a 50-man effort. Every man, every woman, every wife, every partner, every family member, the whole community, you can see it here. Half an hour after the game and everybody is still here celebrating.

"Not one person from Magherafelt has left. There is a real community spirit and what this has done to our town over the past couple of weeks, it has brought everybody together from all corners of the community, and to be able to come home with the John McLaughlin Cup is massive."

McGuckin has been combining this run with Magherafelt with his soccer commitments with Coleraine.

He was Oran Kearney's first signing when the manager rejoined the Bannsiders at the start of this season and has played his part in ensuring that they remain the only unbeaten side in the Danske Bank Premiership.

"I'm busy, but one plays off the other and if you have one strength in one sport you can take it into the other," explained McGuckin.

"It's hard balancing it, but I have done it to this point and it is great. I need to give a special thanks to Oran as well. It's been a lot easier."

What wasn't so easy was the abuse that the club took in the wake of their Championship defeat to Slaughtneil last year. For a period prior to half-time of that game, they retreated entirely and a clip of Slaughtneil players winding down the clock which went viral prompted savage criticism.

McGuckin recalled: "That was hard, it was hard at the time. It was four or five minutes of football and we were slated across the country.

"But what odds? We were beaten that day and that's how it happens.

"But we are a whole new team. You can see it in the young boys, the fight and desire in them. They have passed it onto us and they have put it in our hearts and our bellies to fight on and push on."

It was McGuckin who hit the last score for Magherafelt in the Derry final to give them a three-point cushion that they required by the end. Glen ate into that lead and the margin was just one point by the time referee John Joe Cleary blew the final whistle, just prior to Ciaran McFaul putting the ball over the bar.

"It's nice to score in a county final but you can see what it means to everybody, what it means to management," he added. "They are like Magherafelt people now and they will go down as true Rossas.

"And that's hard for people outside of Derry but it is massive, and it means a lot to us as well.

"But they have put a lot of work into it and you can see what it means to them and to their families, they are all out on the pitch with us, the first out on the pitch."

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