Happy and a little hoarse, Evergreen A manager Eddie McEvoy was a happy man as he walked out of his side’s dressing-room after Sunday’s Premier Division play-off.
McEvoy’s side had just come through a tough tie with local rivals Freebooters, but he expected nothing less.
“There was a massive prize at stake for both teams,” he said. “The game reflected that. Neither side wanted to lose, both gave everything they had.
“We were lucky to go in front,” he added. “It’s the first time in the last three games against Freebooters that we have gone in front, but it was good that we were able to take control after that.”
Not that seeing off the Blues, who were also chasing the title, was that easy.
“They never gave up; they never made things easy for us,” McEvoy said of the opposition. “We had to work very hard for this win, but over the course of the season we deserved it.”
Winning the title was a reward, he reckoned, for a team who never let up in their chase for the spoils.
“We were a bit down after drawing with Freebooters a few weeks ago,” he said of their league meeting last month. “We were under pressure, as they had built up a lead that we had to try and catch up. That’s never easy, but in fairness to the lads they have trained two or three nights a week since last July. They got their reward.”
Both teams could have saved themselves the agony of a play-off had that league game in May not ended 0-0!
So much at stake
“Neither team wanted to lose that game,” he said. “If you had asked me if I’d have taken a draw with 15 minutes to go I would. It was that kind of game, with so much at stake. But what sweeter way could you win a title than by a play-off in Derdimus?”
Evergreen embraced a series throughout the season, experimenting with elements that worked in their favour.
“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves, what systems suit us, but after the McCalmont Cup semi-final against Freebooters we felt that a 4-4-2 would work against them in the play-off,” he said. “We wanted to run at them down the wings and try to exploit the space on the pitch.”
It also helped that the defence kept the Freebooters dangermen of Damien Raggett and Dessie Hayes quiet.
“Although the league isn’t decided on goal difference, if you look at the league table you’ll see that we scored 53 goals - 54 if you include the play-off - and have conceded just nine,” he said.
“For any team to allow just nine goals in a season is a great thing. We’ve been able to build on a solid defence and score goals to win tight games.”
And the manager had special mention for David Grincell’s title-winning goal.
“We know he’s capable of that,” the manager said. “He’s doing that in training every week! It was a phenomenal strike, and to win a league with a goal like that is something no-one can argue with. He just buried it.
“The space just opened up in front of him,” McEvoy said, reliving the strike.
“Chris (Whearty) made a run which distracted the defence so David ducked inside. Both he and Jamie (Owens) have great movement off the ball, so when the space opened up I just knew he was angling to get on his right foot.”
It was a great reward for Grincell, coming on the back of his junior international call-up.
“I was delighted he got the Irish call-up as you can see the quality and ability he has,” the manager said. “It’s great that he got the chance to show it on a big stage.”
That the win completed the five leagues in a row was special.
“It was a run started by John Maclean, but it’s unbelievable to have completed the five in a row,” he said. “I told the lads in the dressing-room that they have to celebrate this as it’s so rare.
“Winning the league for the last five seasons is something to celebrate,” he finished. “And we’ll celebrate it for the next week!”