THE greatest honour a club can bestow. That's how Finuge's Chris Allen described the captaincy of his club after leading team to victory in the county final on Sunday. It was clear both on the pitch and off it what the honour meant to the corner-back.
On the pitch he was blocking down goal chances. Off it he was giving the most passionate speech by a winning captain that we can remember.
Finuge (and, indeed, Lixnaw) have suffered a fair few set backs in recent years – losing finals in both codes – so victory over Spa was the sweetest release for Allen and his team mates.
Up in the stand with the mic in his hand that's what he choose to emphasise. It's also what he focussed on when speaking to the assembled hacks out on the pitch.
"It's not about being the captain on the day," he said. "You've got thirty players there all year who are giving every single bit of commitment that they have to the cause hurling and football. It comes down to a full panel throughout the year and it shows the great determination, heart... fellas there with ankles injured, knees and battled through hard training sessions and come out on the field and give it their all until the last minute so it's a huge success today."
It was a huge turnaround in form from the reigning North Kerry champs in the space of seven days. Something Allen readily acknowledges.
"You look at the last day and the first half and we just weren't at the races at all. Spa were hungrier. They were attacking the ball at midfield. They were winning the breaks around midfield. They were on the front foot constantly. Their half-back line was driving forward constantly.
"That was something we focussed on during the week, to stop their half-forward line, get our half-back line forward and Paul [Galvin] coming to midfield there made a huge difference there winning primary possession and by winning that we were on the forward foot today. The ball going in today was more direct. It was crisper ball. It was a good relationship between Eamonn and James inside and we didn't panic either."
With just seven days until their next enagement, against Pallasgreen in Bruff, Finuge won't have as long as they might have liked to celebrate this great success. Then again chances to represent your county in Munster don't come along too often and you can be sure Finuge will grab it with both hands.
"It [Munster] is a huge objective for us. The thrill of winning in 2005 in the All Ireland final was a great success for a small club like ourselves. In a dual club like Finuge it's hard to keep going in the county league every year, because we don't have the full panel every weekend but getting this kind of success means a huge pile to Finuge. Munster? We'll take one game at a time, but I suppose looking down the road we'd like to play in Croke Park in February something we missed out on in 2005."
Spa Manager Tim Fleming, meanwhile, was obviously downbeat after the game
"We were very disappointed, but I think they came at us very strong at the start. They played very good football as well obviously and very direct football. We found it hard to deal with Eamonn Fitzmaurice at full-forward more than anyone else. Fair dues to the lads they never threw in the towel. They battled back as best they could in the second half. It was an uphill battle and we kinda ran out of time. That's the way it goes," he said.
The decision of the referee not to award them with a penalty early in the second half did stick in the craw but the Spa boss was magmanimous enough to admit that even so the better team won.
"I don't like blaming refs in general," he commented. "But I did think we should have got a free there. Then again the ref could have been closer to that decision than I was. I was talking to a couple of the fellas after the game and we all felt that it was at least a free in if not a penalty. A decision like that kind of changes the game after, but I think the best team won yesterday. They seemed to be the hungrier team."