By Michael McMullan
DERRY captain Conor Glass said it was a privilege to play on the same team as Shane McGuigan in Sunday’s Ulster final win over Armagh.
Both players scored penalties in a dramatic shootout as the Oakleafers repeated the feat of the team of 1976 by retaining the Ulster title.
McGuigan was named as Derry vice-captain this year and finished the Ulster Championship with 2-21 to his name.
It was two of those points, under pressure late on, that pulled the game out of the fire and Glass placed his former MacRory Cup and Ulster minor winning teammate in the same bracket as David Clifford and Con O’Callaghan.
“Shane McGuigan stepped up, that’s the sort of leadership he has,” Glass stressed before revealing how the talisman demanded the ball in the white heat of Sunday’s frantic finale.
“He (McGuigan) told us to get the ball to him and we got it to him as often as we could. He is an amazing player and I am privileged to play alongside him.”
Glass had a huge part to play in the game. He pulled a late Ethan Rafferty kick-out from the skies when Derry closed out all avenues for a short.
The skipper finished a vital point when hit by a crossfield McGuigan pass. At the other end, he was picking up the scraps when Ciaran McFaul broke a dangerous high ball in the Derry defence.
Glass also picked the pocket of Conor Turbitt when the dangerous Armagh attacker looked to have peeled away behind the Derry cover after half-time.
The Derry plan was to overload the middle on Rafferty’s booming kick-outs down the middle, but the Armagh ‘keeper was getting joy off the runners to the wings until the fire was stoke in the closing stages of extra-time.
Derry closed down every option with Glass, McGuigan and Niall Loughlin winning three kick-outs in a row.
“You can do all the work in training, but the first 10 or 11 before that, we couldn’t win any,” said Glass who modestly put Derry’s final push down to luck.
“Thankfully I got my hands on it and set up the next play and then Shane got on the ball….it (momentum) definitely did turn.
“We won the next kick-out after going one up and Paul Cassidy hit a wide. That showed Armagh’s resilience to force that shot and then go up the pitch and get a free-kick.”
It took the game to penalties where Odhrán Lynch denied Rian O’Neill, Aidan Nugent with Glass, McGuigan and Ciaran McFaul holding their nerve.
“I changed my mind, something you should never do,” Glass admits of his penalty, hammered to the top corner with aplomb.
“I practice going across my body, but in the run up it was like, ah I will go to the right and luckily it went in. Penalties are about luck and thankfully we came out on top.
“It is enjoyable,” he said of a pulsating final that went to the wire. “There are nerves with it, it can be draining…physically draining and mentally draining.
“There were a lot of up and downs, but it shows you the character of not only the Derry players, but the Armagh lads as well. To come back at us, to get the lead and for us to come back at them.
“It is a good platform for Ulster football, to showcase what it’s all about up here.”