Self-belief, said Michael O’Brien. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Ballincollig manager was adamant no one player, no one score or no one miss was responsible in delivering the club its maiden county senior football title. Self-belief had dragged ‘The Village’ across the line. Nothing more, nothing else.
The winners had the “worst possible start” to their first senior final appearance, Carbery Rangers kicking six points on the hop inside the opening 10 minutes. By 22 minutes, the gap had extended to seven, 0-9 to 0-2.
Two minutes into the second-half Carbery pounced for the opening goal of the contest. On both occasions questions were asked of O’Brien’s outfit, doubts raised as to whether they had the resolve to fight back. On both occasions, they responded. Emphatically so.
“We are absolutely delighted. It was a massive team performance. We just put everything into it. It was an amazing effort. It is an amazing feeling. We are finally county champions,” said O’Brien.
“It was the worst possible start. You couldn’t have dreamt of a worse start. They cleaned us out in the breaking ball and we just couldn’t get any momentum. We couldn’t get forward. We went 0-9 to 0-2 down, but all year we have had terrific self-belief.
“I told the players to calm it down, not to force the issue. The more experienced members on the pitch were relaying the same message. We knew it would happen for us, we had the belief.
“There is amazing ability in this group. They calmed proceedings down and had a right cut of it. They delivered when they had to deliver.
“I genuinely don’t know why we started so poorly. It is a big occasion. We planned and our plans didn’t work out. Sometimes this happens. In all other games this year we started fairly fast. This time it was different. They really got a steal on us. The players didn’t doubt themselves. We knew we had the strength and pace. When we got the opportunities with ten minutes to go we took them. Even at half-time, we were very confident even though we were trailing by one.”
Said confidence stemmed from a rousing five minute spell approaching the break where Cian Dorgan (0-3), Sean Kiely, Niall Allen and Luke Prendergast all found the target.
“We kicked six points on the hop. It was massive from the players’ point of view. They grew into themselves. They started playing the football we knew they could play, the football they had been playing all year. It gave them the confidence for the second-half. They believed they could go on and win it.”
Continued the winning manager: “Carbery’s goal early in the second period was a sucker punch. They missed one or two chances after that. Then we went down and got our own goal to wipe out theirs. Their advantage was gone again. It was the crucial strike. It turned the game.
“Just like in the first-half, when they did get the goal we didn’t panic. All the players just have such self-belief. I can’t say it enough. We went down the field, got the goal and were absolutely delighted.
“We really kicked on in the final quarter. We kicked some great scores. We defended terrifically. I thought we really stretched them.”
Forced to funnel 15 men inside their own half during the six minutes of injury time played, O’Brien believed their final efforts summed up the heart and determination of this group.
“It was very ropey there at the finish. When John O’Rourke caught that ball your heart was in your mouth. I genuinely didn’t know had the referee given a ‘45 or a penalty. We got through it, defended the next ball that came in.
“We’ll take this win, we’re absolutely delighted. Look how much it means to the people, to the village. We had incredible support here. Everyone really got behind us. We knew we couldn’t waste this opportunity. We don’t get here that often. We knew we had to perform at least. We didn’t want any regrets going out of here and thankfully we haven’t a single one.
“We will celebrate this and then think about Munster. We are in unchartered territory here. We’re not complaining.”
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