THE GAME might have finished scoreless and had just a few real chances in the 110 minutes, but that didn’t matter as far as Callan United’s Peter Kearney was concerned, writes Trevor Spillane.
“It was all about the result,” said United manager Kearney in the aftermath of Sunday’s McCalmont Cup win over Newpark United A at a sun-baked Derdimus. “We may have won on penalties but I felt we defended well throughout. Eoin (Wall) made some great saves there.
“We created one or two chances, but that’s the way it goes,” he added. “I suppose the pressure of a final meant that the teams didn’t play as much attacking football as they can, but coming in here we just wanted to win the McCalmont Cup. It’s been a height the club hasn’t hit in 40 years, but we’ve reached it now. Hopefully it’s onwards and upwards from here. Next year we’ll attack promotion from Division One, but we’ll have a good night (or two!) first.”
With both teams hungry for title, the fear of making a mistake made for a cagey final. That was proof that the Cup meant so much to the teams, but Kearney had a kind word for the fallen opposition, who suffered their second setback in the space of a week.
“It must be heart-breaking for Newpark,” he said. “I saw them lose the Division One Cup final to AC Kilkenny last week in another penalty shootout. In fairness to them, I felt they were the better team in this final, but we’ve often played matches where we’ve battered teams and got nothing out of it - that’s the way football is some times. Today was our day - hopefully we have many more like this.”
Callan were coolness personified when the game went to the penalty shootout. What really stood out was how there wasn’t a hint of nerves among the Callan contingent.
“We showed no nerves at all in the shootout,” said Kearney. “We were practising penalties in the build-up to the final. Practising penalties is very different in training when compared to big matches, but the lads kept their heads. Now we have the Cup to prove it.”
Coupled with four impressive penalties, Callan goalkeeper Eoin Wall also played his part in the success.
“He’s fantastic,” Kearney said of his team’s captain. “He’s our Player of the Year this season, which is something no-one could argue with - he’s been superb. I’d go on record to say that he deserves to get his chance with the Oscar Traynor set-up next season. I can’t understand how he hasn’t featured before because in my eyes he’s the best goalkeeper in Kilkenny.”
Kearney had praise for both Wall and his opposite number, Bobby Maher (he’s been every bit as good this season,” reckoned the Callan manager).
“Both ’keepers made great saves, but Eoin’s save in the last few minutes was vital,” he said. “If that (Tommy Donovan’s 106th minute) shot had gone in we would never have come back. We were struggling to get goals and wouldn’t have had time to get back into the game. Bobby (Maher) also saved his side too - the stop he made from Joey Byrne in the first half was a great effort. They both had good games, but it was our day. It might be Newpark’s the next time.”
But Sunday belonged to Callan, who bridged that 40-year gap to the last McCalmont Cup success. The magnitude of the victory was not lost on a beaming United boss.
“It’s huge,” he said. “I don’t think it has sunk in for anyone yet, myself included, how much this result means to the club and the town.
“To win the McCalmont Cup is a huge honour for Callan,” Kearney added. “This result has been 40 years in the making - no-one can take it away from us.”