The Glenswilly joint-management team of John McGinley and Gary McDaid wore the broadest smiles at MacCumhaill Park on Sunday evening as they guided their side to their first Raidio na Gaeltachta SFC after Michael’s Murphy inspired them to victory over St Michael’s.
“I’m so excited, I don’t know how I feel,” was the immediate reaction of McGinley. “This win means everything to me. I’ve had a bad year but this makes me feel one thousand times better. It’s unbelievable and there was a day I would never have seen Glenswilly as county senior champions, when I was growing up and playing with the club, but thank God it has finally happened.
“I was quietly confident going into the game because I have great belief in the lads. The commitment they have given me and Gary this year was something else and unbelievable. We instilled belief in them and they now believe in themselves and thank God that belief has paid off today.”
McDaid underlined the increase in resolve might’ve been the turning point for Glenswilly. In years gone by those from Pairc Naomh Columba might’ve come out on the wrong side of results in close-run things, while this term they’ve come of age.
Some bookmakers had Glenswilly as outsiders for Sunday’s final and much of the pre-match talk centred around the form of Donegal’s top two forwards, Murphy and Colm McFadden. And although McFadden certainly showed glimpses of his abilities, Christy Toye even more so, both were eclipsed by Murphy, who scored 1-7.
“I was a nervous wreck beforehand,” McDaid said. “I was asked beforehand whether I thought it was going to develop into a shoot-out between Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden and I insisted that Michael always produces on the big stage and he’s proved it again here today.
“He’s a credit to this club, him and Neil (Gallagher). They’ve been brilliant. From that time when they lost to Dublin, they came back to training that Tuesday night and they gave the whole thing a lift again.
“It’s what it means to this group of players. They’re just a special group of players who have been knocked left, right and centre by the media but we kept all that in house.
“We opened that bottle of hurt there today because we felt we got a lot of unfair criticism. We weren’t happy with that but thank God we got the right job today and we can enjoy this win.”
McDaid is of the same vintage of the oldest of McGinley’s four sons on the panel, Martin, and the management team have mixed their experience to hasten the resolve.
Glenswilly have arguably drawn the hardest possible opponents in each round of the championship this season but they’ve overcome every hurdle. They had to defeat last year’s champions and provincial finalists Naomh Conaill in round one, forge a replay win over their three-in-a-row predecessors with the Dr Maguire, St Eunan’s, in the quarter-finals before overcoming the form side in the county, Kilcar, in the semi-finals.
“To win it this year we had to do it the hard way,” McDaid added. “We had to beat the Ulster finalists from last season, Glenties. We beat St Eunan’s after that - they’re the top two teams in the county that have won almost every championship in the last decade and we’re a wee parish locked in between them two.
“There’s about three of four hundred houses in our parish and that’s all we have but every man pulls together and you could see that today.
“Look at the green and gold around. It’s unreal for such a wee club. John, Mick (Murphy) and Brendan (Walsh) were here last year and me and John’s son Johnny came in this year.”
Victory over St Michael’s means Glenswilly will now fly the Donegal flag in Ulster. In 2005, when Glenswilly won the county intermediate championship, they went onto reach the Ulster final only to lose to a last minute Inniskeen goal.
On Sunday week, Caval Gaels, who steamrolled Castlerahan 4-11 to 0-7, will provide Glenswilly’s opposition in the preliminary round at breffni Park, with the winners to take on the Monaghan champions a fortnight later.
“Them boys have shown great strength and great character all year around and that’s something they didn’t in previous campaigns. We’ll enjoy today first and foremost and we’ll probably regroup on Wednesday and we’ll look then towards Ulster but we’ll enjoy this first because it’s been a long time coming.”