By Shaun Casey
JACK McCarron made the telling difference for Scotstown last Sunday, kicking half a dozen points as they overcame Inniskeen by three points to reclaim the Mick Duffy Cup for the eighth time in eleven seasons – something team captain Damian McArdle was thankful for.
McCarron, following in his father Ray’s footsteps by claiming championship gold in the blue and white having transferred in from junior side Currin before the start of the season, picked up the Player of the Match award for his performance.
“Anybody of Jack’s calibre, he was always going to make a big impact. In fairness to him there was a lot of pressure on him, and he did deliver for us.” said Scotstown skipper McArdle.
McArdle, one of the main defenders in the team, often shadows McCarron in training and he determines that coming up against the talented forwards in David McCague’s side week in week out at training has prepared him for anything he could face on match day.
“It’s the same thing as playing a game, you’d nearly be just as competitive in training as you are on game days,” added the corner-back.
“And when you have the likes of McCarron there and the likes of (Conor) McCarthy, when you have the intensity of marking players like that then you’re happy enough when you do get to game day.”
While it may just be another county title to add beside Scotstown’s team on the roll of honour, this one was extra special for McArdle, who captained the team to the title.
The build-up and responsibility of wearing the captain’s armband was a little different McArdle admits, but that added slice of pressure was all worthwhile when the final whistle sounded.
And for a lot of the Scotstown players, this one meant a lot following their defeat to Ballybay in last season’s championship final.
“There’s no feeling like it, it’s extra special for my family and everyone involved,” explained McArdle.
“I wouldn’t have been used to all the media stuff and all beforehand because I’ve never done it before, but I just tried to blank it all out, but it kicked in at the final whistle. It probably the most ecstatic final whistle that I’ve ever witnessed.
“I think it was just because of the wait and we were hungry this year because we didn’t perform last year and it’s just nice to turn up and perform.
“Even when the question was asked of us, we had the answers for it because it was 0-13 all heading into the last ten minutes.
“It’s never nice when you turn up to a county final and you don’t perform so I think we just hit the sweet spot on Sunday.”
It’s Ulster now for Scotstown, who last competed in the provincial final back in 2018 but haven’t won the competition since 1989.
They take on the winners of Derrygonnelly and Kilcoo in the quarter-finals.
“It’s going to be a big test for us, but we love playing in the Ulster Club. Even chatting to the likes of Rory Beggan there, he would even say there’s no better competition to play in.”