Cool heads in Clones cauldron

By Michael McMullan

YOU don’t need to be talking to Ciarán Thompson long before you realise where the ice-cool nature of slotting home the first penalty of Sunday’s Ulster shoot out comes from.

It’s the way he talks. It’s hard to imagine him getting flustered and when he needs to swing his measured left peg at a chance, it splits the posts with way more regularity than it doesn’t.

He offers the same word most players whistle out after a dramatic win. Unbelievable.

“It really is,” he continued in his softly spoken tone. “Looking back on the last year, of the year Donegal had, to be standing here today now surrounded by Donegal people with the Anglo Celt, it’s just phenomenal.”

While unbelievable described the feeling, belief was one of their great cornerstones. Everyone has their take on it. For Thompson, having the tools was important.

“We came into the game and throughout the championship we knew we had a brilliant team there,” he said. “We had a serious team, serious depth and we were getting stronger and stronger every game. We showed it against Derry, one of the best sides in the country.

“We knew we had serious belief in here that we could get the job done. I know it wasn’t looking pretty but that never-say-die attitude now has been instilled in us and we can always just seem to get a result.”

Another ingredient was the impact of the players Kieran McGeeney and Jim McGuinness sent into the cauldron to take the game down a different route.

Two of Thompson’s Naomh Conaill teammates, Odhrán Doherty and Jeaic Mac Ceallabhuí – who replaced Thompson – kicked points across extra-time with Doherty having the nerve to take on an outside of the boot late equaliser.

“Odhrán was brilliant when he came in there,” Thompson said. “He played most of the league and then he didn’t really get much (championship) game time.

“To come in then, in an Ulster final, and do that (take the game to penalties), that’s the kind of calibre of players you have on the bench.

“Men tend to step up and he kicked a worldie there at the end of extra-time.

“The boys off the bench made a serious impact,. Aaron Doherty, Jeaic Mac Ceallabhuí, every man in the 35 or whatever, they all push it on. It’s just a brilliant team to be part of.”

With three minutes to go, Thompson then thrown back into the fray and kicked the first of six perfectly executed penalties.

Excitement is one thing, but in those moments it’s all about combining the fire in the belly with ice between the ears.

“Armagh fans were noisy but our fans were brilliant as well,” Thompson said of dealing with the electric atmosphere.

“You have to kind of live off the Donegal fans once we got a point or two to bring it (Armagh’s four-point lead) back to two.

“You have to live off that energy then and you kick on. You get an extra bit of momentum and everything with it.

“I’m in my 10th year now or whatever it is, so I’m used to it these days.”

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