Malone knew fitness would be key
BRIAN MALONE epitomises everything that’s good about Shelmaliers.
Plenty of class, a cool head under pressure, and most importantly a willingness to run himself into the ground and keep running and running as others begin to wilt around him.
After a toe-to-toe tussle with a gallant Gusserane outfit, the Over The Water side found extra reserves from somewhere in the final quarter to finally shake off their stubborn opponents and grind out a 2-11 to 1-10 victory.
That ability to dig deep and come out on top down the home straight came as no surprise to the county stalwart, who believes having plenty of fuel in the tank is their greatest asset.
“It was touch and go there for a while but we knew we had the legs. It’s our biggest strength, the fitness of the lads.
“The deep runs paid off in the second-half. We butchered a few in the first-half but we stuck with it and it paid dividends in the end,” he said.
Malone also pointed to the strength in depth in their squad as a deciding factor, seeing the contribution of lively substitute Jody Donohoe as a real game-clincher.
“Jody was very disappointed not to be starting, but he came on and scored 1-2, all big scores at vital times and that was probably the difference in the end,” he said.
Having won the Senior hurling last year, Shelmaliers have had plenty to celebrate in recent times, but it’s clear that being able to share in the success with family, friends and supporters made Sunday’s triumph extra special.
“As good as it was last year, when you don’t have the crowd here there’s always something missing. Today we could bring in the young lads and we had the parade.
“The noise and atmosphere makes such a massive difference. Days like today in front of a crowd is what makes you want to play and thankfully we won,” he said.
Shelmaliers manager John Hegarty was full of praise for his charges after watching them come up with the goods, and he was particularly pleased with the application of the players as they kept their opponents at bay.
“There was tough conditions underfoot. It was a hard game and Gusserane were with us every step of the way.
“In the last quarter certainly our fitness did tell, but it helped that we were a point or two ahead and Gusserane had to chase the game.
“There’s probably not a massive difference in the fitness of the two teams, but the scoreline sometimes dictates who looks fitter. Certainly our lads worked hard for the last quarter,” he said.
When Mark Rossiter weaved his way through to find the net eleven minutes after the interval to draw Gusserane level it could have placed misgivings into the minds of the Shelmaliers players, but Hegarty never doubted the mettle of his men.
“Mark Rossiter scored a great goal to bring them level but we responded really well. The narrative I’ve been hearing during the week was that we hadn’t been tested and we haven’t had a tight game, whereas they’ve come through tight games.
“I would never doubt the character of these Shels lads. Their resolve was tested in a way that it hadn’t been until now, but they certainly weren’t found wanting.
“Every time Gusserane came back at us the lads responded and that’s a real sign of character,” he said.
Hegarty was thrilled with the impact Jody Donohoe had on the game after his introduction, while he also praised all the players for the unwavering commitment to the cause.
“Jody was very unlucky not to be playing, but when he came on he made his point and he was a key factor in turning the game in our favour.
“That’s four Senior titles in eight years, two hurling and two football.
“Not too many clubs can say that and it’s a credit to that group of players. I’m delighted for them,” he said.