By Kieran Lynch
BALLYBAY Pearse Brothers turned in a top-class performance to dethrone Scotstown in the Monaghan Senior Football Championship final on Sunday.
Jerome Johnston and Mark Doran’s side won 1-11 to 1-8 to claim their first county crown since 2012, with goal-scoring Man of the Match Dessie Ward one of a number of outstanding performers.
At the full-time whistle, the celebrations indicated how much it meant to the people of Ballybay to be county champions for a ninth time.
“As an outsider looking in, I was just delighted for the people of Ballybay,” joint-manager Doran told Gaelic Life.
“I had people come over to me crying with joy.
“The players and the supporters deserved that, and I just stood back and took it all in – seeing what football means to people in Ballybay, both young and old.
“I can’t say enough about these players, because managers get far too much credit sometimes, but I couldn’t praise these players enough.
“What they have done this year was just out of this world, and I’m just delighted that they were able to get over the line, and they can enjoy all the celebrations.”
Nobody could argue that Ballybay aren’t deserving champions, as they faced a gauntlet of hell to reach the final, having faced Clontibret (twice), Donaghmoyne and Truagh en route to the decider.
However, the basis for their success stemmed back from the championship opener, when they defeated Scotstown in the group stage, which the team took confidence and belief from.
“That first day showed the players that we can beat Scotstown,” Doran, who will be part of Colm Collins’ Clare management team in 2023, explained.
“I believe that they took serious belief from that, thinking ‘we have beat them already, why can’t we beat them again?’
“They went 20 years without beating Scotstown in the championship and when Jerome and I went down there last year and we met them for the first time, the elephant in the room was Scotstown. I think that maybe the boys had a mental block when it came to playing them.
“But there was serious belief in the build-up to the final; every player had a feeling that they were going to do it on Sunday, and they gave us a massive performance.”
And one man whose success nobody can begrudge is Paul Finlay, who has represented his club with pride for over 20 years and remains a key man for the team.
“The word ‘legend’ gets branded about very easily, but that’s what Paul Finlay is. He is our leader,” said Doran.
“Before the game, I was reading through our player profiles in the programme, and out of a panel of 30, 15 or 16 listed their favourite player as Paul Finlay.
“He has been exceptional this year. Some people thought that last year was going to be his final year, but he hung around this year again, and everybody in Ballybay is delighted that he did.”
Curiously, Ballybay and Scotstown haven’t seen the last of each other this year, as they will contest the Monaghan Senior League final on Friday night ahead of their forthcoming Ulster campaign.
Despite the short turnaround after such a massive occasion for the club, Doran says the team won’t complain about playing in another final so soon after last Sunday.
“I hear people sometimes turning their nose up at the league, but I’m a big believer that a final is a final – there are only two trophies that you can win in your county,” he remarked.
“I’ll never get sick of finals, because I’ve been around long enough to know that they don’t come around very often. So, the timing mightn’t be ideal, but it’s great to be in another final.”