Banbridge YCOB ‘silenced their critics’ with a stunning Magee Cup success on Friday.
It was all too easy for them - a 5-0 success over Southside at Annagh United’s Tandragee Road pitch.
Two goals from Sean McKay added to strikes by Mark Feeney, Stevie McArdle and Sean McAlinden to seal rookie manager Kieran McCourt’s first trophy as boss.
And it was one that he made sure to savour.
“It silences a few of our critics,” he told the LEADER. “There were people saying that things would all go belly up for us around Christmas time and players would maybe leave us. Hopefully this proves that we’re serious and that this is the first of many (trophies) for us.”
The victory came as much as a relief as anything else. It’s likely to be the only silverware the club glean for a long season. That’s after they were deducted points in Division Four due to a registration issue with McCourt himself.
“After the nightmare of that league situation, at least it is some sort of reward for the lads,” said the boss.
“The work we have all put in and the players in particular have put in from the start of the season, we deserved to at least lift a trophy.
“From the word go, we were on top. We were far faster and stronger and far too good for them, really.
“We went one up fairly early in the game and then they half came back into it but once we got our second, it killed them off and that was it really.”
YCOB’s opener arrived with just 15 minutes on the clock. It was one of the moves of the match and a great team goal, well finished by forward Mark Feeney.
Just five minutes later, one became two, Stevie McArdle this time the scorer, directing a header beyond the helpless Southside goalkeeper.
And the game was over as a contest by the time the referee blew the half-time whistle.
That’s because Sean McKay had made it 4-0 to the Bann men with two well-taken goals, both created by the lively Drainey.
YCOB were playing without regular goalkeeper Aaron O’Hagan, who is out through injury. Former Rathfriland keeper Ciaran Maguire made his first appearance between the sticks for YCOB instead.
He had previously played out-field for his new club but in the second half, all he and his team had to do was avoid a collapse, which they achieved with ease. They even managed a fifth, right-back Sean McAlinden with a stunning strike. He carried the ball forward before unleashing an effort into the bottom corner to complete the scoring.
“Sean McKay did very well for us and took his goals very well,” said a delighted McCourt. “Shannon Drainey was absolutely first class from the first minute to the last well.
“He has got his GAA commitments but he has told me that he will be here again next season so hopefully we can attract a few more players of his quality in the summer.”
And with the trophy safely under their belts, McCourt is still holding on to hope that they might add a promotion, with three or even four teams having been known to be promoted from Division Four.
He said: “This win gives us a real lift going into the final seven games of the league season. We’re still going to do everything to pick up maximum points, finish as high up the table as we can and see what happens from there.
“If it is to be Division Four again next season then we’ll regroup and go again but you never know.”
Failing any miraculous rise to the elevator up the leagues, the Magee Cup at least puts a positive cap on a first season in management for the former Rathfriland Rangers man.
“I’m loving it (management) to be honest,” he said. “It was great to get the chance to get into it and I knew that if I couldn’t make things work here, I wouldn’t be able to do it anywhere.
“It’s nice to know then that I can bring success and bring a trophy to a club.
“I’m still learning though, obviously. Things like that points deduction, that will never happen again.”
The same, McCourt hopes, won’t be said about cup wins for Banbridge YCOB, now they’ve got a taste for it.
YCOB: Maguire, S McAlinden, D McAlinden, Devlin, Donaghy, Gartland, Drainey, McArdle, Feeney, Burns, McKay.
Subs: Walsh (Burns), McGrath (Feeney), Rooney (Gartland).