By Michael McMullan
BRIAN McGuckin said the Magherafelt camp are “really content” with where they are at ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Glen (Celtic Park, 3.30pm).
After seeing off Newbridge, their recovery process and preparations fully kicked in for Sunday’s date with the champions.
Conor Kearns, a central player in their 2019 and 2020 runs to the final, was back in training last week.
He had made a brief return against Steelstown before being forced off again. There was also a return for young players James Murray and Aidan McCluskey.
“Everybody is fit so we can’t complain with regard to that,” said McGuckin, joint manager alongside Damian Barton.
Rossa gave Glen an acid test for long periods in the quarter-final last year. Leading 0-8 to 0-6 midway through the second half, they felt aggrieved not he be awarded a free with Stevie O’Hara hitting the net for Glen seconds later.
“It gave us a bit of realisation that we can compete with them, first and foremost,” McGuckin said of any thoughts from last year’s encounter.
“We went up and equalised, then Glen scored two points within 30 or 40 seconds to go two points ahead again,” McGuckin added.
With Magherafelt’s change to tact to chase the game, Glen picked them off on their way to Derry and Ulster glory.
The league this season was about getting game time into the younger members to thicken up the squad ahead of the business end. Shea McGuckin’s inclusion against Newbridge was their fifth championship debutant of the season.
“I am not saying (league) results didn’t matter but it wasn’t our ultimate aim,” McGuckin pointed out.
“Coming into the championship, it was very much about getting our tactics in place, getting players fit and, by all means, it was about winning football matches.”
Another sense of achievement was their unbeaten run in the championship. They needed a late Odhrán Lynch 45 to avoid defeat to Newbridge in the group stages.
Ballinascreen asked them plenty of questions in the quarter final before, as McGuckin said, “pulled out all the stops” to edge into the last four.
“We felt we were really well prepared for last week’s game (semi-final) against Newbridge,” he added.
“We are really content with where we are. Our goal at the start of the year was to get to the county final and we are here now and looking forward to it”.
While young guns have been blooded, Magherafelt have once again had the benefit of Danny Heavron as their heartbeat in the middle third.
“There probably aren’t enough words to describe how important Danny Heavron is to the Magherafelt group,” said McGuckin, who coached him to an excellent season with Derry in 2016 under Damian Barton’s tenure as Oakleaf boss.
“He is the ultimate leader and it’s not by what he says but it is what he does.
“He is in phenomenal shape and he doesn’t shrug any type of challenge and he is always pushing himself to the limit.
“On top of that, he has extremely high standards for himself and he expects everyone to be working to their maximum too.
“Danny is only one of a group; by all means he is the leader and will put his shoulder to the wheel like all the rest of them.”