Club All-Stars – Caolan Hendron

Maghery collected only their second ever Senior Championship title in 2020 and Caolan Hendron had a big part to play in getting his side over the line.

His three fantastic saves in the final helped earn him the goalkeeper position on the Club All-Star team.

The Maghery man was in exceptional form throughout the championship, only conceding one goal, coming in the first round against Dromintee.

While Hendron’s heroics between the sticks will be remembered for a long time, he didn’t always have the dream of being the teams number one.

“It was my first proper stint doing it (playing in goals). I’m a forward really, I’ve never been nets. I just had a few problems with asthma, I had a couple of attacks playing out the pitch under Shane (McConville), so I nipped that in the bud and reinvented the wheel to try and stay involved.

I’ve been playing under Johnny (Montgomery) and watching him for a long number of years now, so this was the first time that I played all the championship games and it worked out great”.

What makes it all the more interesting is the fact that Hendron missed the beginning of the league through a groin injury, and only featured in two games before the championship.

“I only played against Granemore and the Ogs and we lost both of them, so it wasn’t looking great that stage. I was just trying to get my place in the team never mind get a run in the championship, so I was just trying to get fit”.

His transformation from sharp-shooter to shot-stopper is “still very much a work in progress”, but Hendron showed all the ability needed to be a top net-minder.

His three saves in the decider vs Cross were undeniably excellent, although the Maghery man believes they weren’t “overly spectacular”.

“I remember (James) Morgan coming in and literally I just went out and met him and my body happened to be in the right place, and I stuck the foot out really.

The second one, I remember it was a great pass in, I think it was Aaron Kernan, he’d hit that diagonal ball that they (Crossmaglen) love, you know it’s coming but there’s nothing you can do about it”.

“(Oisin) O’Neill came in and again I went out five or six yards and, a bit of luck that he hit it from distance, and it was a good height for me, so I had time to react to it. Those two, for me personally, gave me good confidence in the match, and probably gave us a wee lift, because we were under pressure”.

Crossmaglen of course hadn’t fallen at the final hurdle since 1982 and although this was Hendron’s first final appearance, he remained calm.

“I personally wasn’t nervous. I don’t think we were nervous at all as a team. Cross had never really lost a final, none of us had ever beaten Cross in a final, nobody was giving us a chance anyway, so we were quietly confident, I don’t think nerves really came into it”.

“I’d say the changing room thing was a big plus for us too, that there weren’t any changing rooms because I hate sitting in under the stand for an hour, maybe an hour and a half before the match”.

“Everyone’s sitting looking at each other and that nearly makes people nervous, so I think that helped us too. We just rocked up, it was a lovely day, straight up into the stand and you just do your own do really.

You’re down, quick warm up and then you’re into the action before you know it. I didn’t personally feel very nervous about it, I really didn’t think about it”.

As it proved, Maghery were right to have no nerves as they withstood Crossmaglen’s first half onslaught to come good in the second period.

With restrictions still in place, there was never going to be a pitch invasion, but emotions were still high at the sound of the final whistle.

“For me personally, obviously we were down at half time (0-11 to 2-3) and then the couple of goals went in before the water break. I could kind of see the finish line then (at half time) because we had the wind and we had them under a lot of pressure.

Even at that stage I was just like ‘This will be unreal if we could just get over the line’ because nobody had really beat Cross in the final and we really were in the position to do it”.

“Whenever the final whistle went, it was just relief really because, whilst I wasn’t playing the last time, we definitely didn’t want to be one hit wonders. I think we were good value for two or three championships because guys have put their life on hold for the Maghery cause for so long”.

“It was just really relief that we had done it. It does mean a lot because there’s not a lot else in Maghery only football so that’s what you’ll be remember for.

It was special to do it with the players, it kind of is a new team from 2016, there’s a couple of boys, not just myself, who were playing or starting or coming on as subs that probably weren’t even on the panel in 2016”.

“It’s just special to do it with the people you’re training with and I suppose playing instead of being a sub for me personally. 2016 was fantastic and getting that Ulster campaign, I remember training for it and how magical that was. But just to play in a final, even for my family, seeing them after in the stand, everyone crying, it meant a lot to a lot of people.

At the final whistle that’s what I remember, looking into the stand and everyone just couldn’t believe it had happened and we were just relieved on the pitch”.