Stewartstown skipper: I couldn't bear to watch agonising penalty shoot-out
STEWARTSTOWN captain Mark Rooney couldn’t bear to watch the penalty shoot-out that decided the Ulster Club JFC final.
He turned his back on the nerve-shredding action as it all came down to the crude contrivance that would reward one side and heap despair and devastation on the other.
Dramatic and intoxicating it may have been, but equally cruel in the arbitrary manner of its mechanism, and it was the Harps who came out on the right side of it, winning 5-4 to take the title.
Rooney only re-connected with his team-mates when Drumlane’s final kick crashed against the crossbar, and the joy was unleashed.
“I didn’t see the penalties, so I can’t really talk about it. I couldn’t watch,” he said.
“So far play to the lads who stepped up, because that’s brave of them.”
Anton Coyle and Theo Lowe were the spot kick heroes, netting two apiece as the sequence went to sudden death after the teams were tied at 3-3 following five penalties apiece, while Greg Kelly pulled off a vital save.
“Penalties is no way to win a game. The football was over at that stage, and it came down to a bit of luck, but I was just glad to get the cup and take it home,” Rooney added.
The Stewartstown skipper hailed the courage of a team that produced heroics while playing almost the entire second half with 14 men.
“It was probably hunger. We didn’t want to be in junior football, and that’s an Ulster title and a double in Tyrone.
“We’re still unbeaten, and that’s an absolute credit to those boys. We don’t lie down, we don’t lose.”
The prospects for the Tyrone men were looking bleak when they lost ace attacker Gareth Devlin to injury and had Tiernan Rush sent off inside the opening five minutes of the second half, already trailing and playing into the wind.
But their 14 warriors battled heroically to keep themselves in the game, going in front for the first time through defender Connor Quinn in the 60th minute, before Ryan Connolly brought the Cavan men level in stoppage time.
Dan Lowe’s goal had them in front again in extra-time, but two Drumlane scores from Michael Owens set up the dreaded shoot-out.
“The first half was tough. We were glad to be going in at half-time only two points down.
“When Gareth pulled up with injury at the start of the second half, it wasn’t looking good, but it’s an absolute credit to boys like Anton Coyle, coming off the bench and having the game of their lives.
“We just stuck at it. I don’t know how many men were pulling up there with cramp, but we got through it, I don’t know how.”
And when Rush picked up a second yellow card, risks had to be taken at the back.
“At that stage we were man for man at the back. But Kyran Robinson, Darren Devlin, boys like that, we had to leave them one on one.
“We were confident with them, and then we were smart with the ball up top.
“We kept the ball and were patient, chipped over the scores.”
Now Stewartstown are preparing for a trip to Scotland to take on British champions Glasgow Gaels in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
“Ulster was bonus territory, and thankfully we pushed on after the first game,” said Rooney.
“Once you get the first game over you, you get on a bit of a run.
“Come Wednesday or Thursday we’ll have a couple of men back at training and get focused in again.”