Kevin McStay hails Liam McHale’s determination as elusive All-Ireland prize is landed

His 10th All-Ireland decider - his first win

Kevin McStay has seen big days from all sides of the fence at this stage. He’s lost an All-Ireland final in his time as a player, sliced and diced countless more from a pundit’s couch in his time since.

But nothing beats being the man in the arena, the one who gets dirt on his hands and grey in his hair. And when it was all done yesterday, he took a minute to think out loud on what it takes to continue to seek out that arena, even as each visit feels colder than the last.

“We made a big thing of not walking away from this today. We spoke an awful lot about the man who keeps coming back being very hard to beat and you’ve a lot of players there for whom this is their third or fourth time at it. And we talked a lot about perseverance and not walking out of here today without this cup.

“You may not know this but today is Liam McHale’s 10th All-Ireland final as a coach and as a player. And it’s the first one he’s won. That’s a real sign of somebody. It’s easy for Kerrymen and Corkmen to be coming back here every three years because they will get an All-Ireland to sustain them. He came back here today for his 10th one and he leaves as a champion. I think of all the things that has happened with the team, that’s one of the great things that I’m going to take from it. That he came with us. He didn’t walk away.”


Amid the joy and satisfaction he took from the day, there was still a pebble in McStay's shoe that he wanted to draw our attention to.

Classic final
After a classic final, it felt a little odd that he would want to talk about the referee – who, it should be said, had a perfectly decent, anonymous afternoon – but he had a bone to pick.

“I’m going to say this as champions now and I would have said nothing if we were beaten. This is not to cast anything on the referee. I thought he was okay, he was fine. But to appoint a referee from Crossmaglen for an All-Ireland final after we played them in the semi-final with all the referees that were available put him in a monstrous position.”

For Paul Curran, there were barely words to reach for. Having made it to the point where they could taste an All-Ireland, they slide all the way back down the snake now to square one. The Dublin county championship starts in a matter of weeks and if they lose their first game, they’re done for the year. “We spoke about getting a fast start today and it went very well for us. Maybe too well. We just lost our way then and the first Brigid’s goal gave them a foothold in the game and there second was a killer.

“You have to give them credit, they’ve been around the block a couple of times. It would have been very easy for them to say ‘It’s not our year again’. But they’re made of stronger stuff and good luck to them.”

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times