Crucial goal came straight off the training ground as Ballygalget looked ahead to Ulster clash with Lisbellaw
IT was a goal which came straight from late nights pucking about at Mitchel Park that went a long way to ensuring the Jeremiah McVeagh Cup stayed in the Ballygalget clubrooms for another 12 months.
With 11 minutes of the Down Senior Hurling Championship decider left, the game hung in the balance as, for the eighth time, Portaferry and Ballygalget were on level terms.
That was until Mark Fisher escaped the attentions of two Portaferry backs to engineer a yard of space in the corner of McKenna Park before sending an inch-perfect pass into the square.
Reading his fellow forward’s intentions, Cormac Coulter reacted quickest, plucking the sliothar out of the air before turning and lashing home his second goal of the day.
In a game that wasn’t laden down with passages of genuine quality, this stood out – and man-of-the-match Coulter admitted it wasn’t by accident that Fisher had helped conjure the moment of magic that pushed the men in green towards the finishing line.
“We’re very good mates, we’d always be up hitting about, just constantly out at the pitch, in the garden, wherever, anywhere we can get,” he said.
“It was a lovely ball in from the corner and I just got it and put it in the net. Maybe I got a bit of luck but that’s what it takes in close matches like that.
“We’ve known each other for years and there’s a lot of boys just coming through there, the likes of Jordan [Doran], my brother [Eoin]. A lot of us would’ve played Mageean Cup together as well.
“We’ve a lot of younger players in the team – a good few older ones too – but the mix of players coming through, a lot of students like myself, it’s a great team to be a part of.
“It was a tight game but we knew it would be. It’s always the same at McKenna Park, it’s that tight, everyone’s that close, it’s very hard. You feel that pressure I suppose, but we’re just happy to pull through.”
Sunday’s victory saw Ballygalget become the first club to land back-to-back Down championships since they achieved that feat in 2008.
Last year, ‘Galget won the county title coming out of Division Two of the Antrim league before being well beaten by Loughgiel at the semi-final stage in Ulster.
However, having since returned to Antrim’s top flight, Coulter feels they are in a better place heading into their provincial campaign, which starts against Fermanagh outfit Lisbellaw on October 8.
He added: “It’s massive, the type of games are completely different – quicker, faster… it just brings you on so much. It’s great to play in those kind of games.
“We have Lisbellaw next and you have to win that match, that’s all we’re looking at now.”
Victory that day would secure a final clash with either Dunloy or reigning Ulster kingpins Slaughtneil, but Ballygalget weren’t looking that far ahead as the celebrations kicked into gear on Sunday.
And while some of their stars of the future stood up to be counted against Portaferry, so too did their old guard.
Paddy Monan, part of the Ballygalget management team, was quick to praise the parts played by Eoin Clarke, Gareth Johnston and captain Ben Toner.
“In fairness to those three lads, they make our job a hell of a lot easier,” he said.
“We don’t have to be very vocal in the changing room at all, we just give them a bit of direction and those boys give them the leadership on the field.
“We’re not the best managers in the world and if you’ve somebody on the field who can react to different situations, it makes life a lot easier.”