What a year 2019 has been for St Colmcille’s Grange and it was topped off on Saturday evening when they received two All-Star awards in Diarmuid Rafferty (Midfields) and Miceal McKenna (wing half forward), with the latter also being named Intermediate Footballer of the Year for his crucial role in leading Grange to their first Intermediate Championship title in 26 years.
McKenna played in a final before but didn’t have a good experience five years ago, when his side fell at the hands of St Paul’s but that experience along with the freshness of some new youngsters into the panel helped Grange along in the last few seasons.
“The last time (Grange won the Intermediate Championship) was ’93, I think there was maybe seven or eight of us there back in 2014 when we played St Paul’s and they were the far better team that day, so it was good to get a second chance at it and there was a lot of relief for the boys that were there in 2014.”
“The likes of the younger lads, they brought a bit of freshness and a lot of them lads hadn’t really played in a final so it was new to them but it didn’t hold them back and they kind of pushed the older boys on so it was great to have them. It was just pure relief at the end, a brilliant feeling and for the year the Grange had, for a lot of people in the club, it was great to see the smiles of their faces.”
McKenna was unable to attend the annual Armagh awards night last Saturday but was delighted to hear the news of his achievement, “On Saturday evening me and Dad and Cathal, we were away so I missed the presentation but Mum rang (to say he got player of the year) and I thought she was joking at the start, I was a bit surprised.”
“There are a lot of lads in the Grange alone who put their hand up throughout the year, they were outstanding. The lads deserved it as well but then again Paul O’Rourke was outstanding for Shane O’Neill’s and he give us a lot of bother in the final. I was surprised but on a personal level I’m delighted, it tops off a great year.”
The McKenna brothers, Miceal and Cathal, played a huge role in capturing the Intermediate crown for Grange, with the younger of the two landing the game winning free kick in the dying minutes of the final, but two weeks previous it was Miceal who stepped up to land the deciding point in their semi final victory over Clan na Gael.
A Clan na Gael attack had broken down and Grange’s centre half forward bounced on possession and drove forward at pace with an ocean of space in front of him. McKenna carried the ball for the best part of 50 metres and when the historic moment presented itself, McKenna didn’t shy away from his responsibility and kicked the winning point to send his side into the championship final.
“All game it was tight, there wasn’t much space to move and then near the end I was at the far 65 and I turned and I couldn’t believe what I saw in front of me so I just opened the legs and went for it and lucky enough it just went over in the end.”
This moment not only saw Grange qualify for the showpiece but McKenna describes how it summed up the work rate and commitment that filtered through the Grange set up as well as the will to win, “Ronan Mallon came out of the defence along with me so it gave me another option.”
“The Clan na Gael lad couldn’t really come to me because if he did Ronan was on the far side of him for the pass over the head so he gave the Clan na Gael man something to think about and made my job a whole lot easier as well. It just shows the effort and the hard work the boys put in, Ronan ran 60 yards alongside me to just give me support.”