Saturday 17 March 2018

Harbinson emphasises importance of 'sevens' in victory march

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

St Gall's have long since established a reputation as being one of the finest exponents of 'sevens' football in the country and their manager Lenny Harbinson wasn't slow to attribute their first All-Ireland club success to that devotion in Croke Park yesterday.

A comfortable five-point victory over Clare hopefuls Kilmurry-Ibrickane ensured a first All-Ireland senior football title for Antrim and the promise of more to come.

"It's tremendous for the team, first and foremost. It's tremendous for the St Gall's community and the community in Belfast and Antrim as well," admitted Harbinson.

"We came here today with a great work ethic and we knew, at some stage, that our football ability would come through as long as we gave due respect -- which we did -- to Kilmurry and as long as we ensured a high tempo to the game. That's what we brought and that's what brought us back into it," added Harbinson whose side fell behind to an early Kilmurry-Ibrickane goal.

The ability to retain possession and recycle was paramount to their success.

"I think that is a testimony to the footballers we have on our team. So, it's by no small coincidence that we like playing 'seven-a-side'.

"We have a great tradition playing sevens -- the Castlewellan and Kilmacud tournaments down through the years -- no doubt that stood us in good stead during the Ulster campaign.

"But fundamentally it's down to the players . . . they have great skills."

Harbison said the team didn't reflect on their defeat to Salthill-Knocknacarra in the 2006 club final.

"We spoke very briefly about it a few weeks ago. It didn't really have any negative impact within the team," he admitted.

"It was a learning experience. What happens in the past, no matter what, stands you to good stead from an experience point of view."

Kilmurry-Ibrickane captain Enda Coughlan said it wasn't a question of nerves getting the better of his team.

"It's tough out there. We are disappointed. Things didn't go right for us in the first half and we were facing a battle after that.

"I think once we didn't win it, it is not worth a damn being here, to be honest. We came up to win it and we didn't win it. As far as I am concerned, it is not just a day out."

The Kilmurry-Ibrickane manager Micheal McDermott paid tribute to St Gall's and conceded they had been beaten by a superior team.

"I don't think we can have any complaints really."

Irish Independent

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