By Michael McMullan
STICKING to the plan was the key for Steelstown’s win over Moortown insisted influential defender Diarmuid Baker
Cahir McMonagle may have kicked five of Steelstown’s six points in Sunday’s Ulster final, but Baker – wearing the number four jersey – handled the ball more than most.
Time and time again, he ferried the ball deep into enemy territory and when the Derry champions failed to translate his energy into a score, he just kept coming back for more.
“You are thinking ‘how do you break this Moortown team down’ they are sitting back that deep and we hadn’t played a team that were that defensive against us before,” Baker said.
“You are thinking, stick to the process that we have been doing in training and hopefully it will come off.”
It was a desire 12 months in the making and Baker pointed to the input of trainer Paul McMenamin.
“He had us out running last November and all were out running for the whole winter…the exact same thing. That was the engine getting built up over time,” added Baker.
He also paid tribute to the input of Hugh McGrath and the management’s input into planning for Moortown’s defensive approach.
“We were trying to emulate what the other teams were doing and it has paid off,” Baker explained.
Speaking in a previous interview, captain Neil Forester commented how it was a comment Baker made during their county final celebrations hit home the importance of Steelstown seizing their Ulster opportunity.
“As a club, we aspired to play senior championship,” Baker said. “We didn’t necessarily want to be playing intermediate for our whole lives and this could be the last time we are ever in intermediate.”
It was soon translated into a ‘let’s go as far as we can’ type of mantra that morphed into a memorable run to the summit of Ulster.
Sunday was a mental test, but three unanswered points saw Steelstown back on level terms before substitute Emmett Deane kicked them into a 55th minute lead that they never relinquished.
“Me and Emmett live together in Belfast,” said Baker.
“He was frustrated at not getting on in a couple of matches. I just told him to keep the head down and keep working at it.”
Having scored a point against Limavady in the group stages, Deane spent much of the championship at the bottom of the pecking order. Three minutes at the heel of their win over Butlersbridge was his only portion of ‘knock-out’ game time.
“Fair play to Emmett, he comes to training every time and just works his ass off,” Baker said. “Literally, that has all paid dividends there today, and more or less kicks the winning point.”
Baker made the point of highlighting the impact of Oran Fox on their defence in his first season and Eoghan Heraghty, who stepped in for the Ulster Championship after regular goalkeeper Marty Dunne’s injury.
“I want to say…those boys really stood up. It would’ve been so easy for them boys to go hiding,” Baker said.
“Eoghan Heraghty played brilliantly the whole Ulster campaign. I thought his kick-outs were brilliant, he has not looked out place at all, the same as Oran.”
What will the win do for GAA in the city?
“It is massive and hopefully this here can inspire,” replied Baker. “We want to see teams like Sean Dolan’s, Doire Colmcille, Pearses (Doire Trasna) playing intermediate and trying to play senior, that’s exactly what we want.
“The more competition in the city the better and hopefully that will drive Derry won and hopefully I’ll see a Sam Maguire in my lifetime.”