Gerard O'Kane

Gerard O’Kane: Days like this

HAVING won a senior championship on 2007 and thoroughly enjoyed everything that comes with it I genuinely thought the days of the ‘Monday Club’ were behind me. In 2007 we had a fantastic Monday Club and for those of you who know Glenullin, our club is perfectly set up for it.

We have a fantastic set up in the club house with a fully functioning social club. Bellaghy, whom we beat in the final in 2007 came over on the Monday and spent most of the evening at our club and we genuinely respected them for doing that. No doubt Monday Clubs have been happening long before I ever graced this earth but they just probably didn’t carry the actual tag of a Monday Club.

Then add in the explosion of social media over the last number of years and it now seems to be a competition for who can have the best and most raucous Monday Club. For a four-week period at this time of the year county finals at all levels are taking place and you only have to go to social media on the Monday, source the county and look for the winners and you will see the craic that is going on.

After our club won the Derry Intermediate Championship two weeks ago now we had a great reception back at the community centre and a great night on the Sunday night. For the club itself, that night is about everyone being together, young and old. It is especially about the children of the community. I certainly didn’t appreciate it as that back in 2007 as I was a young 23 year old and we probably thought days like that would be coming thick and fast given the calibre of player we had and the age profile. However, that’s not how it turned out for us.

Added to the fact I have my own wee boy myself and we have 10 grandchildren in the O’Kane family circle, and the whole dynamic of a championship victory changes. I wanted to make the day and the evening as special for Ethan. He is 10 years of age and in 40 plus years time I want him to remember the day that Glenullin won the championship so I tried to include him and have him with me wherever possible.

Even when he was not necessarily with me, there is a great group of young lads who all have fathers on the team and management. They are never too far away at all the training and team meetings and matches and there are copious videos and pictures of them in around the changing rooms after the final whistle. We are now able to catch those memories on camera and you look back in the days after it and get a chance to reflect on how special it is for those lads.

I have often looked with envy over the last number of years on other clubs who have paraded a championship winning team into their hall and wished I had that experience just one more time and thankfully we got it last week. It truly is an unbelievable experience, the type which money cant buy. As I looked down the hall and saw all the faces it was one of my proudest football moments. Having won a senior championship in 2007, that is the pinnacle of most of, if not all of our careers and that probably will not change. However, there is no talk of this only being an intermediate championship.

Every title has to be taken on its own merits at that point of time. In 2007, we had a team full of lads who had played at all levels for the county and who had been knocking on the door. I am not saying a championship was inevitable, but it definitely was an expectation to be really challenging for it. This side is different in that no one really gave us much of a chance – not in the early part of the year anyway – and its only as we gathered a bit of momentum that people started to sit up and take a bit of notice.

There are no standout county players of this generation on the team sheet and very few with underage experience with Derry so for this group of players, the championship victory definitely was not expected.

Add in the fact I’m 38 and realising my days are limited and having Ethan and all my nieces and nephews with me I actually appreciated this victory a little more, it means something different.

While not comparing the two, as 2007 will always be the pinnacle, with age you definitely get a different appreciation in life for moments like this. Had someone told me that at 23 I would probably have scoffed at it and if any of the 23 year old in our squad are reading his they will maybe roll their eyes but you only learn these things through experience.

Now, back to where I started, the Monday Club. As noted before, we are lucky in that we have the perfect set up for it and it was definitely used to full effect. It will come as no surprise that the players all had a chance early in the day to be in each other’s company and enjoy the craic and as the day moved on and the music got louder we had visitors and well wishers from Dungiven, Sleacht Néill and beaten finalists Drumsurn.

As you get more mature you get to appreciate such acts and there was people from many clubs, players and supporters who chanted and sang and had the craic and not one cross word was said. This time around we have the luck (or maybe unlucky for some) of having this all captured on videos and pictures and it was great to relax later in the week and get to sit down and scan through all these – memories we definitely can’t forget now.

Come Thursday it was back to work for the lads, dust ourselves down again and refocus for a completely new challenge, the Ulster Intermediate Club. I have always said that the Ulster Club series is the best competition in the GAA calendar by a mile, though mostly in reference to the Ulster Senior Cub. The quality of football on show is usually top drawer. The Ulster Intermediate in its own right is no different and I am just so grateful that Glenullin name will be in that category once again and I’m looking forward to what the next few weeks will bring.

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