Teams that win county championships earn them. They have to fight for every line ball; they have to fight to win every breaking ball; they go into tackles that ordinary people might describe as madness and when they get their opportunities in front of goal, they take them.
Nothing is handed out just for the sake of it. It has to be earned and earned with blood, sweat and tears. The hard nights training in the wet and the wind; the continuous drills, the staying in when maybe your friends are on the town and never saying why am I bothering or what do I get out of this anyway?
As games go, last Sunday’s county final will not be remembered as one of the most entertaining. There were wet, slippery conditions and a cross field breeze; those conditions don’t really suit good football but Glenswilly adapted better and came out on top.
From the very start they had a game plan; they dictated the pace of the game from the very start, kick outs, line balls and free kicks, they slowed it down. They knew they could not match Kilcar's pace and were never going to play the game at a high intensity. They slowed it down time and time again and Kilcar, for all their effort, could not match the Glen men.
Most would have known coming into the game that if Glenswilly were going to have any chance they were going to play long ball into Michael Murphy at the edge of the square. They did and how it worked. Kilcar’s lack of height and strength in the full-back line was badly exposed; even with Mark McHugh trying to sweep in front of Murphy they could not stop the big man.
Glenswilly, to their credit, know their limitations and worked the ball into positions where they could hurt Kilcar. Kilcar, on the other hand, were guilty of carrying the ball far too much. Glenswilly just pulled everyone back, maybe bar one or two, and gave Kilcar the ball but tackled them just as they entered the scoring zone, a bit like Tyrone and Donegal in the Ulster final.
Kilcar's strengths lie in the fact they have good ball carriers, but carrying the ball allows defences to set up. When Glenswilly kicked the ball long, they always had a chance at goal. Glenswilly created four good goal chances; I can’t remember one for Kilcar.
Two of the best forwards in the country were on show, Murphy on one side, Paddy Mc Brearty on the other. Kilcar never kicked one ball long to McBrearty; he had to come deep and carry the ball. He had to beat four or five men every time he got a shot away.
Kilcar kept with the same game plan the whole day, as if they had no other way of playing the game. Glenswilly, on the other hand, mixed it up but when they got the chance and seen either Neil Gallagher or Murphy inside, they hit it long. They were unpredictable.
Maybe it was the fact that Kilcar came into the game as raging hot favourites; they looked nervous. Maybe they made too much of the win against Glenties and they lost their focus. A lot of talk about Ulster can get through to the players, no matter how many times a management team can point players in the right direction.
Kilcar are a good side and I have no doubt they will be back, but unless they change their style of play and introduce a couple of big men into the team, they will struggle when the game gets physical. They need to utilise the pace of the two Mc Cleans inside and move the ball quicker to Paddy McBrearty.
This defeat will have hurt Kilcar but they will have learned a valuable lesson. Championships don’t come easy; they have to be earned and they will find out more about themselves in defeat than they will ever winning underage or league titles.
Glenswilly, on the other hand, will have celebrated long and hard after this victory. Michael Canning set out his plan after the win over Malin and knew they would have nothing to lose and they played with no fear. They knew that Kilcar would be nervous, so they didn’t allow them to settle. They knew an early goal would put the doubt in their minds; they worked it on a number of occasions and could have easily have had a second but no advantage was given to big Murphy.
The Glenswilly management and the players on the field got it spot on. They kept to the plan until the last seconds. Apart from the excellence of Murphy, Neil Gallagher, Cathal Gallagher, Eamonn Ward and Gary Mc Fadden all played well.
There was one instance that stood out for me that typified Glenswilly on the day. They got a free kick in the last few minutes, the ball was played up the line; three Kilcar men went for the ball; one Glenswilly player, Darren Mc Ginley; he won the ball, came out of the tackle and found a team mate, spirit in abundance, aggression towards the ball, disciplined enough after winning the ball to find a team mate, hard to beat that.
Of course, Michael Murphy deserves a special mention but he would be the first to point out the unselfish running and back up from his team mates. As a team last Sunday they showed why they have won three championships in the last five years.
GOOD LUCK DONAL
Finally I would like to wish Donal Reid all the best with his book, “Confessions of a Gaelic Footballer.” All proceeds go to Pieta House and it will be launched on Saturday night at 8 p.m. in the Abbey Hotel, Donegal Town. I know there are plenty looking forward to the launch but there are a few very nervous.