Gerard O'Kane

Gerard O’Kane – The Green and Gold express

IF at first you don’t succeed, try again. That is what both Glen and Dunloy would have felt in the last 10 days. All I can say to both is fair play. Both don the green and gold and are within 15 mile from my home-place Glenullin, albeit Dunloy is just across the border in Antrim.

Dunloy had been knocking on the door of Ulster in the hurling for a number of years, falling to Sleacht Néill in each attempt, but they got over the line in the Athletic Grounds a number of weeks ago and they definitely kicked on in Croke Park on Sunday past.

On balance they have quite a young side, most of whom I would know more about their fathers as I remember the Dunloy sides from the mid-90s and early 2000s. But in their youth they have still gathered plenty of experience and in their first outing at Croke Park as a team they more than delivered.

Going back to the Ulster football final in Armagh, similarly a Glen side who would have very little experience at this level never let that faze them one bit as they largely controlled the game versus probably the most experienced side in Ulster at this level.

As someone who went to school in Maghera at St Patrick’s College and hailing from Glenullin myself, I regularly joked there was ‘only one Glen’ or we are ’the Glen’. Given I was the only one from Glenullin in my year group against maybe 70 or 80 from Maghera, I was still brazen enough to say it.

If challenged I would always have the response that Glenullin had two Derry Senior Championships and Glen at that time had zero.

As time moved on and I left school, I was lucky enough to be part of a side that took our tally to three but fair play to Glen, I would imagine that over the next few seasons they will equal that number of three and go on to better it.

After winning back-to-back championships in Derry, they are a club who we can have nothing but praise for.

There had been so much talk about their Ulster Minor winning teams from 2011 to 2014 and then the successful u-21 team from 2015 to 2017, but for those lads to reach that age there had to be a serious amount of work being put in from the turn of the century.

I am not privy to anything which has went on in terms of a gathering of heads, putting structures in place etc, but the culmination of all of that was not simply an accident. There had to be some sort of structured plan in place.

It would not all have been plain sailing either. Around 10 years ago, Glen got relegated to intermediate level in Derry. That would have been a big blow to them at the time but it probably did allow them to field the first of those minor teams coming through to senior football without the pressure of playing the then tops teams like Ballinderry, Eoghan Rua and Sleacht Néill.

I remember them getting beat in an Intermediate Championship final in Derry by Foreglen. Glen were fancied to win it but Foreglen probably just had the craft and experience at that time.

However, fast-forward 10 years on and I would imagine that looking back on all of that was all part of gaining that experience and knowhow of firstly how to compete at that level, then beyond that, how to win at that level.

I will say one thing – they do have a natural advantage of numbers. Coming from a medium sized town, they have big numbers to work with and developing players at underage can be easier in that they would have very few lads playing up two or three years.

The biggest challenge for them is most likely at the 18-plus age group, trying to retain them and keep them interested as there is bound to be a bottleneck of players each year coming out of minor. Every club has challenges in their own way and they seem to have found the perfect formula for this.

I can already see Amazon and eBay selling out of green and gold flares over the next few weeks. It was a common theme on county final day in Derry and as both ourselves and Glen are green and gold, there was a glow in the air over Celtic Park.

To me it adds to the occasion. It doesn’t seem as prevalent in teams further down the country when watching on TV but certainly from teams in our area, it adds to the craic and atmosphere and the wee ones love it. Dunloy will have the same theme too though getting them into Croke Park might be a different proposition security wise!

Anyway, as we all shut down for a week for holiday season, fair play to both clubs, enjoy your Christmas break as best you can but just remember, in my eyes, ‘There is still only one Glen’.

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