By Michael McMullan
HE had number six on his back, but Michael Warnock grabbed two points in an all-action Man of the Match display as Glen retained their Derry senior title.
‘Spike’ mixed a marking role on Sleacht Néill playmaker Christopher ‘Sammy’ Bradley with putting Glen on the front foot and his first point kicked Glen into a two-point lead that defined their controlled performance.
“It’s fairly surreal,” he said of their back-to-back titles. “Growing up, we were always told Glen couldn’t win a championship, but we were very keen to change that as a club and it certainly puts the doubters to bed.”
“You did debate for a while. Would we get there? Would we win? Would we win one, never mind two? It is such relief.”
When the dust settled on their extra-time Ulster exit to eventual All-Ireland champions Kilcoo, it wasn’t about retaining their Derry title. Getting back on the horse again was the number one priority.
“We said we’d focus on getting ourselves ready for the championship and focus more on that journey than the end goal. That’s where you get your enjoyment out of, those trainings and days like these are phenomenal,” Warnock said.
“When we look back on this, we’ll talk about the journey we’ve had and the times we’ve had with the management team, we can’t speak highly enough of them…the confidence we have in them is unbelievable.
“You can’t talk about Malachy (O’Rourke) without talking about Ryan (Porter) and vice versa. Training wise, I have never worked with anybody like him,” said Warnock of a training programme geared at peaking in October.
“It’s how they manage us, how they manage our bodies, it’s no surprise they’ve been at the top for the long, long time and will continue to be at the top for a long, long time.
“There is no point in coming into the championship absolutely flying…we trust the quality we have will get us through certain games.”
After that, Warnock hailed the squad’s mental preparation and how anything else would be in vain it they weren’t totally switched on.
“Our mindset has got to be right,” he said. “Mentally, if you are not prepared, no matter what physical condition you are in, you will never get over the line. Mentality…. it is more preparation than physical.”
It was put to the test with three successive Sleacht Néill points cutting his side’s lead to 0-10 to 0-6 with 12 minutes to play. An Ethan Doherty point broke the momentum, but Warnock was never content they’d done enough to secure victory.
“Not when you are playing Sleacht Néill,” he said. “Full credit to them, the battles they have been in down the years and will still continue to go through.
“You can never think you have won the championship final, they got three on the trop and the crowd was getting behind them,” he said, saying Doherty’s score offered them some breathing space as the game headed for a finale.
Glen now face the winners of Sunday’s Tyrone decider between Carrickmore and Errigal Ciaran. That’s their next goal.
Looking back at their missed opportunity against Kilcoo, Warnock didn’t reflect on it as a ‘what if’ moment as he watched the Down side collect the Andy Merrigan Cup.
“You can never think that could’ve been us winning the club All-Ireland, there were three more steps and Kilcoo went on and finished the job. Congratulations to them and now it is up to us to progress on a bit further.”