The Grange captain Adam Toal gave a powerful and passionate speech after he had climbed the steps to lift the clubs first Intermediate Championship title in 26 years. As is customary with captain’s speeches, the final man on the long list of people to thank was the man wearing the Banisteoir bib, John McArdle.
Described by Toal as ‘Mr Grange’, this title meant everything to McArdle who had patrolled the line twice before on county final day for the Grange and on both occasion headed home on the losing side. But 2019 would be different and Cathal McKenna’s last minute free ensured this was, as the Captain put it, “third time lucky”.
McKenna, like Toal, gave a glowing account of McArdle’s impact in the club, “He bleeds the Grange football, he’s just Grange through and through. He would do anything for the Grange, he’s a top man and everything that goes through his head is Grange, Grange, Grange. He’s in the club every night, John’s a top man, he’s class”.
While the Athletic Grounds held its breath for a hectic final 10 minutes, the Grange manager displayed no signs of panic and was confident his men had enough to win the game, “I didn’t really feel anything to tell you the truth, we had a game plan and these boys don’t quit, so as long as we were always within touching distance we were always in the hunt”.
McArdle had full confidence in his team and never once doubted McKenna’s capability to slot over the final point, “I have full confidence in Cathal; Cathal came back from Australia at the start of this year and has put a huge shift in. We put in 100 session as a group, today was our 100th session but Cathal put in 200 with the amount of work he’s done off the field so I knew the ball was going to go over”.
“My thoughts would be, right kick out. Don’t give them a chance to get down the field and get a score. I said to these boys all year long, don’t admire a ball going over the bar, don’t admire a pass, you have to think about what’s happening next. If you can get into your head “what happens next” then you will get over the line and it’s proved it there today, they’ve went to the very end and got over the line”.
McArdle’ was overjoyed by the character and never say die attitude his side had demonstrated and he explained how this was achieved off the field of play as well as on the training ground, “The character’s huge but we’ve worked on that from the very first training session of the year”.
“It’s as much about off the field as it is on the field, the amount of work the lads have put in, the amount of things they’ve done together, whether it be stewarding for funerals, whether it be putting the gym together, whether it be doing big breakfasts, whether it be doing fun-runs for raising charities, that all takes place off the field and that all builds character and that all leaves it so you can get to the very end and get over the line”.
While the Grange did go into the contest as the bookies favourites, McArdle wasn’t concerned with the favouritism seeping into his players minds due to their recent clashes with Shane O’Neill’s, “We knew we weren’t going to be favourites for this game, we played Shane O’Neill’s in a challenge match at the very beginning of the year and we won by a point”.
“We played Shane O’Neill’s up in Shane O’Neill’s (in the group stages of the championship) and won by two points and each time they had chances to win the game. The lads were very grounded the last fortnight about what they needed to do to get over the line. We didn’t play well today, but what we did was we kept going, and that’s the heart in these lads, we’ll keep going, right from 1 to 28 because it takes the whole squad to do it”.
While the victory meant everything to McArdle on a person level, the manager pointed out how big capturing the trophy was for the community, “It’s not about me, it’s about the club. I was chairman the last two years, we were 75 years (in existence) last year and to me it’s all about the club and the community”.
“You look around here today and you see all, young and old and all mingling together and everybody will do everything together. There’s different things have hit the Grange this year and we’ve all stood together, the team stood together, the club stood together and the community has stood together and to me that’s what it’s all about, it’s all about the community”.