Dromintee clinched their first senior league title since 2004, with a 17-point win over Ballymacnab on the final day of the season.
The campaign started 408 days beforehand, when the men in blue and white also saw off the Nab in the opening round.
Lockdown threatened to deny the St Patrick’s club the chance to lift the cup, but they got there in the end
“There was a big hunger amongst the group when we did get back after the initial first lockdown. We had numbers that we hadn’t seen in a long time.” Explained midfielder Aaron McKay.
“We had a great start to the league campaign last year, and then obviously back into lockdown. You’re thinking ‘all this hard work’s nearly come to nothing”.
It was a nervy finish to the campaign. Dromintee just shaded Armagh Harps at the top of the pile, with one point to spare.
“We had a strong point tally built up coming back into the resumption and it was just tittering away. You were getting worried at one stage!
We were lucky enough last week (vs Cross). We sort of pulled it out of the bag and got the points. This week, obviously with the Nab already relegated, it was less in the extent of the competitiveness of the game”.
Attention will swiftly turn to Silverbridge, led by former Dromintee manager Kevin Franklin, as the sides clash in the first round of the championship.
“We’ll not get too carried away with ourselves. Obviously, we won the league but with the championship draw, teams would be happy enough to get us!
We’ll just enjoy the moment. A couple of boys have a few niggles and stuff. I think we’ve four weeks now to get those cleared up so hopefully we’ll get back to full strength”.
The Armagh defender reflects on some recent history shared with Silverbridge. “We were fighting relegation with them a couple of years ago.
I think Ballymacnab actually done us a favour that day. They beat Cullyhanna, and we had to get a result against the ‘bridge in the ‘bridge. So, they’ll probably have that in the back of their minds, that we got them relegated”.
League success often paves the way for improved championship performances and a conversation with Maghery’s James Lavery back in 2016 springs to McKay’s mind.
“I remember we played Maghery in the quarter final in 2016. I was chatting to James Lavery after the game, he was like ‘we really put an importance on the league’.
They needed to taste a bit of success in the league, built a bit of momentum before they felt like they were able to attack the championship”.
“We were in 1B at the time, and we said we needed to get up into 1A. You need to be playing the top teams week in week out. It’s all about building momentum for championship”.
The management partnership of John Kennedy and Stephen Kearney, two “Down men” as McKay puts it, have made their mark on the team.
“I’d have a good relationship with Stephen Kearney because he’s a teacher in St Paul’s High School. So he would have coached me a good bit through school.
I would have had a good relationship with him before he came in. John has a really good reputation and the boys have done really well”.
“They’re playing boys that are putting in the hard work and showing up to training. Fellas that, I suppose have this reputation of the better footballers, that maybe weren’t putting the hard work in were dropped.
Even when we were fighting relegation the players stuck by that ethos and I suppose it has paid off for them today”.