By Martin Wynne
Clann na nGael had been slow out of the blocks in recent matches and it almost cost them dearly on a couple of occasions. But having squeaked past Roscommon Gaels and Western Gaels, the Johnstown men made sure to eliminate any sense of lethargy from their game ahead of last Sunday’s decider against the reigning champions.
“We wanted to go out in the first half and put down a marker,” Clann manager Fergal Shine explained shortly after the final whistle at Dr. Hyde Park.
“It was a good open game of football. Both full-forwards were playing well, Senan (Kilbride) and Ciarán (Lennon). There were good points being kicked at both ends.
“We were always going to go out and play football, and Brigid’s do the same. That’s the way I think a game of football should be played and may the best team win. We went in at half time leading by two, which was good. We haven’t done that for a while. Then we said we’ll reset and refocus for the second half.
“We started well again, but they got back to 1-10 each. Then they had a man sent off and we got a couple of quick goals. That was the changing of the game — two goals in 30 seconds at a crucial time midway through the second half. We kicked on from there after that,” he summarised.
Shine felt that Clann had matured as a team since capturing their last senior county title in 2015. He noted that the panel had become stronger and they’d be hoping to make an impression at provincial level, just like the great Clann teams of the past.
“There’s a good panel of players there,” he said. “You look down through the team and there are big names all over the pitch. Clann na nGael have traditionally done well in Connacht down through the years so we won’t fear anybody.
“Teams will look at Clann na nGael and think they must be coming again. That’s what we want. There’s definitely a panel there that can go and do things. We’ll just focus on the next couple of weeks and get set for the next game in three weeks’ time,” the Clann supremo affirmed.
His captain, Donie Shine, also highlighted Clann’s strength in depth and the quality of the players coming off the bench.
“We lost one of our key players, Darra Pettit, to a black card early on,” the 2006 All-Ireland minor title-winning forward pointed out. “But the response was just brilliant. I suppose when you can bring a player like Fergal Lennon off the bench, who is just back from injury, it’s a big boost.
“Darra was a massive loss to us. But the response from the lads was great and that shows a bit of character. It’s a great day for the club. I never thought we’d do it in the style we did.
“The performance was unbelievable. Lads played great all over the pitch. The lads that came on contributed as well. You couldn’t have asked for more. It was just a great day for Clann,” he explained.
Shine concluded by paying tribute to his late father who passed away last year. Donie Shine Snr. had been Clann’s manager during their most successful period in the late-1980s, and Donie Jnr. said that it had been a “difficult week building up to it because he was involved in so many of these”.
But he reiterated that he was “delighted” that his team got over the line, and “proud” to be bringing another county medal back to the Shine household.