Sean McCreesh has been a loyal servant to the Belleek cause for 17 years and he got his just rewards on Sunday.
The left-footed corner forward finished the game with 0-7 as he guided his side to their first Junior Championship title since 2001.
It came one year after their last appearance in the showpiece, which ended in defeat. That hurt helped mould the charge this season.
“Last year was gut-wrenching for this group of boys. I suppose to sum it up is to say as soon as that final was over against Forkhill, the second game, we let it sit for six weeks, seven weeks.
Management got back on to us and said, ‘listen lads we’ll meet up and have a chat’. Met up had a chat in the clubrooms on a January’s morning. The message was simple. We’re going to win that Junior Championship”.
“You can say all the cliché sayings to now but that’s what the plan was. We wanted to win the Junior Championship. We were unlucky last year, we always say we were six seconds, that was the thing driving us at training. Six seconds, because we were six seconds away from (winning) it last year”
Garreth Thornton finally got the St Laurence O’Toole’s side over the line in his second year in charge. McCreesh paid tributes to all management team for their efforts in recent seasons.
“The whole management team work so well. You have the two Brendan’s, Brendan Savage, who’s been with this team now in three different management teams. Brendan O’Neill’s come in there with Gareth as well and the three boys have come together.
But it’s not just them, it’s everybody behind that people don’t actually see that we as players appreciate. Gina the physio, Gerry Savage, Niall Fearon looking after stats.”.
“Gareth set us up to be the best looked after and the best drilled team in Armagh, in Junior football. Boys knuckled down and due to Covid we couldn’t really train collectively together, and boys done the work behind the scenes.
Boys were coming back in better shape than what we did before last year’s championship. That’s what stood to us and that came from Gareth, the whole management team and filtered down”.
The underdogs tag held by Belleek in Sunday’s showdown had little impact and McCreesh pointed to the mentality of his teammates.
“This is absolutely no disrespect to Crossmaglen because Crossmaglen are the kingpins of club football, everyone knows that. But our boys are a different mentality. I can understand, there’s people talking about players dropping down and those boys have done a massive service to Crossmaglen and rightly so they’re going to be talked up as favourites.
I knew from the Dorsey game when we watched it back as a group, we didn’t perform. We dug it out in the end, showed a wee bit of character definitely, but we still knew we were winning that championship”.
Not many have given more service to the club than McCreesh who earned the honour of being named Man of the Match at the final whistle.
But Belleek’s championship top scorer insists the younger members of the squad inspired him to keep going.
“We’ve went through dark times in the club but this team here is build off a group of lads who’ve come through and really set the standards. If boys aren’t pulling their weight, there’s a group of lads hooking them out.
If they’re not working hard enough, them boys are driving it and that’s come from the captain Stephen, Michael, Sean (all Finnegan), Callum (O’Neill), Ronan (Davies), Paul O’Hanlon”.
“All those boys have won underage medals with Belleek, and they just came through and drove the whole thing on. That’s why I wanted to play football with them because they’re such a great bunch of lads. And when you have days like that there, winning the Junior Championship with your club, nothing comes close to this”.