The Colaiste nas Carraige coach, Neilly Byrne, was beaming from ear to ear at the final whistle in Enniskillen on Thursday.
He had just witnessed his charges carry out their second half game plan to win the Markey Cup in magnificent fashion.
Behind by four points at the break, Carrick turned it all around with a mixture of short and long football to forge six points clear midway through the half.
“It was the best half of football I’ve ever seen, from any team I’ve been involved in,” said Neilly Byrne, coach to the Colaiste na Carraige side.
“Let’s be fair about it. We had a great first 20 minutes, possession wise, not enough scores. Then we gave away a rather awkward, bad goal, a goal you would say we shouldn’t have given away. Then we found ourselves four points down.
“It could have been more. I watched this team a couple of times and they are good in front of goals, kicked some lovely scores.
“I felt in the first half we didn’t play our game the way we should have played it. We were kicking the ball to fellas that were too closely marked. There were men right behind them and the ball was breaking away from our forwards.
“We sat them down at half-time and told them that we would go back and play our game, the possession game. We would work it, work it, work it and if its works and if it didn’t, it didn’t. We just had to play our own game,” said Neilly, who agreed that there was a huge amount of spirit and heart involved also.
“It was a huge, huge performance. They are a physically strong side and we found it hard to get out of our defence with the ball. Their team was tackling exceptionally hard. The workrate of their forward line, I said to Noel Ward (manager) we didn’t meet anything like that before.
“But, at least we had the fitness and the legs to carry us. Then we got the last goal when they were pushing forward. It happened us in the U-14 game. We got the break this time and Ryan Gillespie unselfishly slipped the ball across to Pauric Cunningham. He could have went for the goal himself, but he did the right thing,” said Neilly.
Indeed, former Armagh intercounty football, Jimmy Smyth, now chairman of the Ulster Vocational Schools’ committee, sought out Gillespie on the pitch after the game to congratulate him on being unselfish in that vital moment.
“We left it behind two years ago when we had 17 wides and got beat by four points against Coalisland. Then Coalisland took Virginia College to extra-time, so we knew we had a chance coming here.
“But if you don’t put in the hard work, you won’t win anything. It’s all about hard work,” said Neilly.