PATIENCE finally paid off for Newpark on Sunday, but there was still room for some final nagging doubts before their coronation as McCalmont Cup champions was confirmed.
“I didn’t think we were going to get our hands on the trophy,” said a beaming manager Mark Ryan. “Their goalkeeper had the game of his life and looked like denying us. However, after losing something like eight finals we were definitely due one!”
Having suffered defeat in the 2012 decider, Ryan was full of smiles as he watched his team get their hands on the trophy at the second time of asking.
“I’m delighted for all the players,” he said. “We were lucky to get a chance second time round - to get to a McCalmont Cup final is a huge thing for any club outside the big two (Evergreen and Freebooters); to get a second chance within a year is something else. Thank God we took it!”
Winning the final helped to make amends for last season, a year when Newpark also missed out on promotion and lost the Division One Cup final.
“Our aim was to get to the Premier Division,” he said of the campaign which has just ended. “To win the league was a bonus on top of promotion, but the McCalmont Cup is a competition of bigger stature. It’s really been an amazing end to the season.
“We strengthened the team, adding to the players we had last year,” he added. “We got to one final so I said ‘why not another?’. It would have been tough to beat Evergreen and Freebooters - in fairness Callan United took out one of them, so the least we could do was beat the other!
“Once the big two were gone there was an even greater interest in the competition,” Ryan continued. “I’m sure they’ll be back next season, bigger and stronger than ever, but the rest of the clubs won’t be lying down.”
Made life difficult
The manager was full of praise for Brookville, a side who he said made life difficult for his team.
“I knew it would be a very tight game,” he said. “Personally, I would have preferred to play with the wind in the first half. Brookville are a good side who like to play with the ball, but I felt they hit the ball long at times.
“Brookville played a bit of ball and had us pegged back in the first half, but I knew that this game was going to go right down to the wire.”
Ryan was one of many people who felt that one goal would be enough to settle the final.
“I knew after about 20 minutes that this could be a game that could be decided by just one goal, or even extra-time,” he said. “You’d hope in the first 20 minutes that, as favourites, you might get a quick goal and then maybe even a second, but after the first quarter I knew it was going to be a long day. I’m just happy to have finished it after 90 minutes and not to have to sit through extra-time and penalties.”
And the manager has special mention for the Man of the Match, goal-scorer Shane O’Neill.
“Shane was playing B team football at the start of the season,” he said. “He has knuckled down and got his rewards for that. He got his place back in the team, held on to it and now he has a winners medal.
“Shane has played in a lot of finals for us and lost them over the years,” the manager added. “Lads start to ask questions of themselves when that happens, to doubt themselves, so I’m delighted he has won this final.”
League champions and now McCalmont Cup champions. It’s been a season to remember for Newpark A.
“It’s a nice double to have,” Ryan nodded. “We were disappointed to lose to East End in the Division One Cup but sure, you can’t be greedy!