BY CHRIS MCNULTY
MAXI Curran flicked the lights off at 5 o’clock yesterday morning after finally getting his preparatory work done for the county final.
The appointment of Curran, a native of Downings, to the St Eunan’s job at the end of last year didn’t quite cause a stir, but nevertheless the decision to select an ‘outside man’ for the first time was a considerable talking point.
Yesterday Curran delivered Dr Maguire back to the O’Donnell Park clubhouse, his team having upset the odds, which were more than generous given the pedigree and experience that wears the black and amber.
Curran had his six-year-old son, Kristian, by his side on the podium after guiding St Eunan’s to their 14th county title and he was quick to point out the effort that has been put into the season.
He managed to get 40 winks at 5am, while others in his group have young children and would’ve been close to rise-and-shine time by then.
“Relief is the first thing that comes into the mind,” Curran smiled as he surveyed the delirious scenes following the 0-9 to 0-6 win for St Eunan’s fifth win in the last eight championships.
“There is so much work put into this and a lot of sacrifices are made. I’ve my own son here, he’s only six and a lot of the boys have young families. This is the only thing that rewards it.
“It means a huge amount. I went to bed last night at 5am doing the finishing touches to the video analysis and the presentation. Those are hours that nobody sees. I’m sure Gary McDaid is the same. It’s part of football nowadays and I know it’s a cliché to say that you leave no stone unturned but that’s the way it is. As a coach that’s probably my strength.
“It’s the children at home that lose out. My own wee fella is six and I’d be heading away to training and he’d he saying ‘don’t be going, stay home and play with me’. That’s like a dagger through your heart.
“Winning the championship is the only thing that can make that in any way worthwhile.”
St Eunan’s were said to have been in ‘transition’ this year, but Curran could call on county minor panelists like Sean Daffan and Conor Morisson to go alongside the seasoned warriors like John Haran, Conall Dunne, Rory Kavanagh and Kevin Rafferty.
Still, Eunan’s were offered as 11/2 shots for the title just a few short weeks ago.
Curran said: “Nobody gave them a chance at the start of the year. They were ‘too young’, ‘in transition’, this and that. I always believed and I always knew the talent that was in the group. I believed that they could do it – thank God they have.
“There was a massive amount of players who all left at the one time and they all had to be replaced. Yes, we have a lot of young fellas, but we had to do that. People felt that we were weakened as a result.
“When you have the likes of Rory Kavanagh, Conall Dunne, Kevin Rafferty and John Haran…They have put in such a shift to get us here.
“As coaches, you’re looking to improve all of the time. Ultimately you want to win things and when I got the chance to manage St Eunan’s I knew the talent that was there and it was a chance. It’s been an honour for me to work with these lads.
“In a lot of ways at county level you get spoiled but in fairness to St Eunan’s they’re as close as you can get to a county team with their attitude, their organisation and their facilities – the support at board level as well. That was a big part of my decision to come here. It’s been a brilliant year for me and I’m delighted for the boys.”
In between the Harans and the Daffans of the squad, St Eunan’s have lost the likes of Ross Wherity, Ciaran Greene, Dualtach Molloy, Cillian Morrison and Lee McMonagle from their senior ranks for differing reasons.
One of the players of that vintage played a starring role in yesterday’s win.
Eamonn Doherty, at just 24, has now won five Donegal Championships. The centre-back was superb yesterday. Not only did he shadow Michael Murphy for long periods, but he gave his side a significant boost going forward too. An old school centre-back.
Curran said: “Eamonn Doherty had a blinder and is a very important player for St Eunan’s. He’s a physically imposing centre-back and shores up the defence. He comes with the play and launches a lot of attacks as he can punch holes. He was further up the field as he was marking Michael Murphy for 75 per cent of the match. He did a very good job.”
Eunan’s never had a comfortable lead and Glenswilly were always in with a shout, but when Kavanagh caught a late ball that was destined for Murphy, Curran felt it was fitting. Eunan’s launched a counter-attack from which Dunne scored the final point of the game
“This has been Rory Kavanagh’s Championship,” Curran declared.
“We went up to Malin six days after he lost the All-Ireland final and he was phenomenal that night. He was man-marked and might not have been involved as much as he’d like – but he makes the big things happen. He’s a leader and it’s only right that he’s the captain.”
The Cathedral town side now look forward to their first Ulster Club tie at home. Fermanagh’s Roslea await this Sunday and Eunan’s will be keeping their fingers crossed for the availability of Kevin Rafferty. The midfielder was forced off prematurely yesterday, his evening over after only ten minutes and the management were awaiting news of an x-ray on an eye injury.
With Crossmaglen, St Gall’s and Ballinderry gone from the field, there are all of a sudden quite a few sides eyeing an Ulster club tilt – including St Eunan’s.
Curran said: “Anything can happen in an Ulster club competition. We have Roslea, who are a seasoned team in the Ulster competition. They know what to do and they have a couple of Quigleys there at the edge of the square. If we thought we were tested today under the high ball it’s nothing compared to what we will have to face next week. We’re just delighted to be there.”