THE paper band wrapped around his wrist has the word ‘WIN’ written on it but it doesn’t stand for “winning the game”, explains Glen defender Michael Warnock. It goes a little deeper than that.
Of course he goes out to win games. On Sunday, Warnock played his part as Glen retained their Ulster Championship crown but the simple message on the wristband is there to remind him to stay sharp and never switch off.
“It’s something I look at during the match to refocus myself,” said the experienced defender.
“It’s just there. It might be a one per cent-er or it might not but hopefully it’s working.”
Warnock played to the final whistle on Sunday when Derry champions Glen when toe-to-toe with Monaghan’s Scotstown. They Maghera club were a point ahead three minutes from time but that could have changed when Rory Beggan sent Darragh Murray through on goal.
The crowd held their breath as Murray pulled trigger but Warnock had read the danger and he put his body between the Scotstown forward and the Glen goal. The ball cannoned off him and eventually Glen won it back.
“It was just one of those things at the end of a game,” said Warnock.
“You just throw yourself at it. I was a bit sore after it but you’ll take those bruises. There’s a lot of tackling and stuff like that goes on all over the pitch and people don’t notice it. Just because that happened at the end of the game, people will think: ‘Och, brilliant’ but there was 60 minutes played out there and as a group we were under the cosh in the first half. Thankfully we turned it around in the second half.”
The conditions played a part on Sunday. A howling wind blew sheets of rain up the field towards the town end meaning that Glen goalkeeper Connlan Bradley struggled with his kickouts in the first half and Scotstown’s number one Rory Beggan – who sent one monster restart all the way to the opposition 45 with the wind behind him in the opening half - had the same problem after the turnaround.
“It was tough to get our kickouts away in the first half but we could get more of a press on in the second half,” said Warnock.
“We managed to do that and they didn’t get any short kickouts away comfortably which meant we were on the front foot from the start of the second half.
“I thought we did quite well in the first half against the wind, we were getting scores, we were able to get up the field and get our shots away in the scoring zone. We were two points down at half-time but we’ve been around the block and we know not to panic. Malachy was very calm at half-time and he said: ‘Look, this is what we need to do, this is what we need to fix and lets go at it, lets go on the front foot..’”
Glen retained their Ulster title with a four-point, one-point and then a two-point victory in their three outings. Scotstown pushed them hard, like Cargin and Naomh Conaill had done in the earlier rounds, but the Maghera outfit was up for the challenge.
Now they face Dublin and Leinster champions Kilmacud Crokes in a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland final.
“We’re coming up against the All-Ireland champions,” observed Warnock.
“They beat us last year so we know we’ll be up against the likes of Shane Walsh, Paul Mannion, Darragh Mullin… All quality, quality players and they have a serious squad so we’re going to have to be at our absolute best.
“But sure what else would you want to be doing at this time of year? It’s nearly Christmas and the Ulster title is sitting in Maghera and we’re happy with that. We’ll enjoy the next few days and then settle back down and look forward to the New Year then.”