GAA Football

Smyth hails Stewartstown's refusal to give up in tense Ulster junior final

Stewartstown Harps celebrate winning the Ulster title. Photo: Adrian Donohoe.
Francis Mooney

Stewartstown's joint manager Blake Smyth spent the most dramatic stages of the game in the Gerry Arthurs Stand, a red card ending his sideline patrol early in the second half of their Ulster Club JFC final against Drumlane of Cavan as tensions simmered.

But the players didn't need any promptings from the fringes as they clicked into auto-pilot to pursue their dream with untold courage.

“It was amazing, backs to the wall stuff. Our greatest ever forward, Mannings (Gareth Devlin) went off with a hamstring, a man sent off, everything was against us, and I thought we were getting a few tough calls against us, but they dug in,” said Smyth.

“It was a very easy game to give up on and make a few excuses, but we didn't, we kept going.

“And all credit to the lads, it was just pure heart and passion that got us over the line. I don't know how they kept going, it was mental toughness.

“It probably wasn't nice open football, which would have thought the two teams would have played, but you don't really care about that, you just want to win..

“Finals are like that, it was just about getting over the line.”

Deep into extra-time, with players cramping and suffering from knocks, the battle went on, and the Harps never gave up until the last ball was kicked.

“We had a few knocks coming into the game, we had a few boys who probably shouldn't have been on that pitch. I don't know how they stayed on it.

“A few other boys we had on the bench were carrying knocks and we couldn't bring them on. They would have been on earlier if they had been fully fit.

“The strange thing was that our fittest men were the men who were going down, because they had run themselves to an absolute standstill. They left nothing in the tank at all.”