Seen by many as a surprise starter in last Sunday’s starting line-up for Melvin Gaels, James Phelan more than justified his inclusion by scoring the all-important opening goal and after the game the beaming smile across his face gave an indication of just how much winning the senior championship meant to him.
Putting his emotions into words, James exclaimed “These are too rare these days, I’m waiting to wake up, it’s too good to be true.”
James was on the survivors from Melvin Gaels’ last senior title in 1998 and comparing the two victories, James stated this year’s win feels extra special.
“I think it’s all the sweeter because we’ve had 14 years of heartbreak, hard luck stories and should have beens. 1998 happened before we knew it, we came from nowhere that time and won it but this has been a two year process and we always knew that we could breakthrough.”
Elaborating on the two year process he referred to, James stated the work leading up to Sunday’s victory when they were relegated from the Senior Championship - “This time 24 months ago we were after been relegated and that was the most gut wrenching feeling I’ve ever had in my life to be down there, no offence to intermediate football, but we always felt we wanted to compete at senior football.
“We pulled ourselves together and it’s testament to this panel and management. We worked damn bloody hard and it’s been a long journey but we never doubted, we always knew we were good enough. Even last year when we were in Intermediate football, we were still barring thoughts that Manor were the best in the county and we got to the league final.
“We always knew it was possible and never stopped believing and today is just brilliant.”
The fact that victory came at the expense of their age old rivals Melvin Gaels meant victory was that bit sweeter aa James stated “It’s always going to be a tense game when you play Manor and today was no different. Once we got the goal it put a little bit of daylight between us and we always knew that if we got ahead that we were going to put it up to Manor.
“The only thing we were afraid of was that there might be a bit of nerves and jitters and we mightn’t get into the game quick enough that we might find ourselves behind but we got ahead and we pushed on from there. There was an odd tense patch in the second half when they came back to within a point but I knew when we went back to points up again that the day was ours.”