Glencar/Manorhamilton manager Aidan Rooney
Aidan Rooney wore the expression of a happy man last Saturday in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada, a man who nevertheless was not surprised to see Glencar/Manorhamilton back in a Senior Final.
“We’re delighted, of course we’re delighted to be in a County Final again,” Aidan told the Observer after his team’s commanding 3-8 to 0-10 victory over slight favourites Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s.
“It was a very good performance, Ballinamore are a young side and I suppose they came under the wave of pressure of the favourites tag. I know in all fairness they came through what was said to be the toughest group but we will see with the second game what was the toughest group at the end of the day.”
And Leitrim’s 1994 Connacht Championship winning hero believes the 2015 & 2016 defeated finalists are going into the Final in much better form than they were last year when Aughawillan pipped them with a late Mark Plunkett fifty.
“To be honest, we have a lot of lads playing well this year. We weren’t playing as well last year, even though we got to the County Final. What it does, it gives us a good chance. You can’t win them until you are in them and we would have felt in last year’s final, I suppose we were I think untested in the championship to be fair.
“That was no slight on Melvin Gaels or Carrick last year but I felt that both games didn’t really test us but this year, the Aughawillan game has been a really tough test. We have a lot of tests this year.”
The key to coming through those tests - quality forwards! “Forwards win games ultimately and I’ve always been that type of a coach, the ball at the other end of the field is more important.
“Defensive play isn’t the biggest part of my game. We have good forwards and they are playing well this year. Mohill have the same thing or Carrick, whoever comes through.”
Looking back on Saturday’s victory, Aidan felt that his team were well in control of their own destiny - “Ballinamore have some very good players, up and coming county players, former county players, current county players so we knew what we had to do and to be the fair, the lads did it.
“At the end of the day, we were in control of our own destiny to a large extent. Ballinamore were pushing hard and were going for long direct ball and our full back line, Pat Gilmartin, Paddy Maguire, were excellent under the high ball.”
That experience was crucial and Aidan fully believes in the value of hard won experience - “You are right, composure and the experience in the team. Some people are saying old legs and it is old legs, in fairness it helps.”
Ballinamore may have expected to win the midfield battle but it was the Manor duo of Thomas Coyle and Killian McGriskin who took the honours and Aidan highlighted not their performance but their commitment to the cause.
“Tom, before I came to Manorhamilton and I’m not taking the plaudits, had never played Senior football and Tom has a lot of very good attributes. He mightn’t have the silken skills of another player but his physicality and his attention to detail of what he does is superb.
“Sometimes we look back over the years of football and we think back of great teams and they always had a big man in the middle of the field who could do a bit of damage and catching ball.
“Killian McGriskin I thought was outstanding on Wayne McKeon in the second half, I thought that was a huge testament to him as captain, he had to lift himself. He had to win that battle and he won that battle today and that was huge to us because we knew where we had to win those battles.”