Fr RockS GFC earned themselves an exciting and well desereved trip to Croke Park in Dublin after defeating the Mayo Champions Charlestown 1-8 to 1-7 in a game that had a thrilling and yet somehow unwatchable ending for the Cookstown side, writes Daniel McCormack.
Connacht champions Charlestown led 1-5 to 0-3 at the half time break, however in the second half cookstown produced a spirited and euphoric comeback as youngster James McGahan came off the bench late on to score what turned out to be the winning point.
Tension was high however as Charlestown missed a miracle chance with the last kick of the game missing from a 13 yard free kick which was gifted to them right infront of the goal.
“The game against Charlestown was tough, a real battle and I am just delighted that we have got through it. As with all semi-finals it is only the result that matters.”
John McKeever’s thoughts on the semi-final victory were well spoken and he also went on to say how he will demand the same amount of dedication, cohesion and commitment that his team showed during their semi-final win against Charlestown when the Fr. Rocks take on Kerry’s Finuge on the 9th of February.
The Fr Rocks manager, a local Portglenone man, admitted that Charlestown were favourites going into the semi-finals and how they were more than happy with that.
“It was ‘squeeky bum time’ when we came in at five points down at halftime. We had a few chosen words and the boys pulled together brilliantly and we were unlucky not to get the win in normal time.”
McKeever, who is pictured above left with his wife Sinead holding the Paddy Cullen Cup, also stated how the cookstown side were lucky as Charlestown missed their fair share of easy oppertunities in the dying embers of the battle.
McKeever admits that Kerry side Finuge will be hot favourites going into the big game: “We will have to lift our game again against Finuge. They will be hot favourites but that suits us fine” John said, admitting that his team had been in contact with Finuge’s Kildare semi-final opponents for the inside track on the Kerry men.
“They are able to call upon Paul Galvin and Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice and that is great experience to call upon, especially organisationally on the field.
“And this could very well be Fitzmaurice’s last game for Finuge. He has been a major influence, figure and role model at their club and they will want to send him off with an All-Ireland winner’s medal.”
However, Mckeever also expressed how the Cookstown side have a lot of on field generals too with players such as Marty Rea, Owen Mulligan and Conor Mullan amongst many others.
“With us, it is all about the collective effort at meeting Finuge’s challenge. We have a real togetherness about us and have had about 150 training sessions together all told. We have constantly talked about the guy in 25 shirt being as important as the man in number 1.”
He also spoke about how critical the bench had become in Cookstown’s successful run to the final.
“We know that if the fellas come off the bench there will be no drop in effort or class. They train just as hard as anyone and are pushing those guys who are lucky enough to start up to better things; there is real competition for places.”
The Portglenone man went on to express how there is a good blend of youth and experience in the squad and that seven or eight of the guys weren’t even playing the last time they made the final.
“Fellas like David Hughes, Marty Hughes and James McGahan have been introduced to the team and they have coped brilliantly when they have had they chances.
“The older guys know what it takes to become All-Ireland champions and each one have bought into it - dedication, cohesion and commitment.”
It is clear that the Tyrone and Ulster champions are well and truly up for this challenge and their supporters are hoping that their men can bring the goods back home, just as they did in 2009!