By Michael McMullan
A FEW things strike you about Michéal McCarville as the dust settles on Scotstown’s extra-time win over Trillick.
One is the wispy moustache he is growing as part of the ‘Movember’ fundraising drive for men’s mental health. There is also his sheer size that has you looking up to make eye contact.
The main one is the sea of well-wishers seeking out the man in the number nine jersey. Hugs and shakes of the hands and slaps on the back are the order of the day.
“It is just hard to put into words how we are feeling here, it is just absolutely class,” he said after booking a place in the final, the club’s third in nine seasons.
“It’s like any club team; your community puts everything into it. You have so many football people from Scotstown,” he said with a smile that suggests there is a light-hearted personality inside the engine that kept purring all the way to victory.
“The football club is the heart and soul of the community and we have another opportunity, and that’s what it is, it’s an opportunity to go and achieve more.”
Crossmaglen edged them out in the rain in the 2015 Ulster decider after extra-time. It was a similar hard luck story against Gaoth Dobhair three years later.
Current manager David McCague played in 2015 and 11 of his teammates to see game time that day will be on the bus to Armagh on Sunday. Exactly half of the 30-man panel against Trillick played in their defeat to Gaoth Dobhair.
McCarville wasn’t one of them. There were some cameos off the bench in the years since before he made a midfield spot his own.
The Covid lockdown saw him take a change in career. The path in sales was swapped with student life in Belfast with St Mary’s University College.
“I decided to try my hand at teaching,” he said. “I am not there yet but hopefully I will be in a year or so.”
He’ll be in manager Gavin McGilly’s plans, alongside Seanie O’Donnell who he played against in their win over Trillick in the semi-final. For now, Scotstown is the only focus.
In a competition where almost every game balances on a knife-edge, McCarville sees it as a chance for a “new squad” to write their own story.
The teams his father Gerry played on put the club on the map and gave the next generations something to follow.
“There are players who weren’t part of those teams (in the 2015 and 2018 finals) so it is a new setup,” he said before highlighting how their panel was bolstered when the county players were on duty.
The league was about one thing – getting players exposed to action and McCarville feels it unearthed players the management had belief could give their ship a steer in extra-time.
In the league, it’s about trying to get everyone game time and as you can see with the amount of different men who came on in the second half and even in extra-time, boys who hadn’t played this year in the championship or the year before, it unearths a few men.
“These men stepped up to the plate when seven or eight men weren’t there until the mid-summer,” he said.
“It is a squad game now and 20 or 21 men played against Trillick and it is a credit to everyone. There are boys who didn’t come on who could come on the next day, that’s the story of our season.”
Scotstown have not won an Ulster title since 1989 but have been top dogs in Monaghan eight times in the last 11 seasons with last year’s final defeat to Ballybay one of the rare winters the Duffy Cup didn’t have Scotstown ribbons on it.
“It is a new year,” McCarville said, quashing any deep level of soul-searching. “If you dwell on past mistakes, like last year, you are already starting off on a losing battle.”
McCague took over as manager. Diarmuid Scullion, a native of Bellaghy, is on board. In came Peter Donnelly and Corofin All-Ireland winning manager Kevin O’Brien.
“I think men just rolled in at the start of the year and said we were going to have a crack at this in Monaghan and take it game by game,” McCarville added.
“We are down to the last two. Glen won Ulster last year and went to the All-Ireland final. They have serious players all over the field.
“They have men who played for Derry and won two Ulsters in a row, Ethan Doherty Young Player of the Year, Conor Glass an All-Star last year.
“We feel we have quality all over the field as well and are just hoping we can go out and have a good battle with them.”