Shane Curran: ‘All-Ireland victory is the best day of my life’

St Brigid’s goalkeeper wrestled match referee to the ground in joyous aftermath of win over Ballymun Kickhams

St Brigid’s goalkeeper Shane Curran celebrates after the All-Ireland club final win over Ballymun Kickhams. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

St Brigid’s goalkeeper Shane Curran celebrates after the All-Ireland club final win over Ballymun Kickhams. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

 


When it was over, Shane Curran staggered from his goal at Hill 16 end of Croke Park with the legs of a drunk. It was as though emotion had flooded the gaps between his synapses and communication between his head and the rest of him had slowed to a crawl. He fell to his knees in front of the St Brigid’s supporters, almost exactly on the spot where Niall Grehan had intercepted the last Ballymun attack about 90 seconds earlier. In three weeks, he’ll be 42. Whatever happens from here on out, he’ll be an All-Ireland winner.

“I could play for 100 years,” he says. “Anyone could after that. It’s days like this that make you feel so fortunate. It doesn’t happen to many players. It’s the greatest day of my life.”

It very nearly wasn’t, of course. Sunday’s final was one of those where you could find no more than a feather to tilt the scales in favour of either side. Had one late flick pass into Dean Rock not caught the tip of a Brigid’s finger, Ballymun would surely be champions today. Curran would disagree obviously, and not just because Rock would have still had to find a way past him. His faith in the Roscommon champions never wavered all day, not even after going 2-3 to 0-1 down after just nine minutes.

“To be honest, I wasn’t one bit worried. The reason I have experience is to learn from it. I was saying to myself I couldn’t remember the last time I conceded two goals in a club game. It could be 15 years ago, certainly 10. I never worried about it because we’ve got a great resolve and the team are a great bunch of lads. I knew that when we got the goal back that it was going to be our day.

“There are a few things that changed it and retrospectively it’s easy to say that but the will to win was just incredible. Being part of it was immense. For ye guys looking at it, it must have been one of the greatest club finals if not one of the greatest finals of all time.”

It was certainly that, with never more than a point between the teams from the 37th minute to the end. When the whistle goes after a game like that, your eyes fight a family war for what to pick out. The Ballymun players, broken and red-eyed, staring at the ground. The Brigid’s sideline, a puddle of hugs for Liam McHale as he finally won an All-Ireland after his 10th final. Any one of the flash-fires of players hopping on each other’s shoulders.

But Curran is, was and always will be box office and this was a free show. So we watched him make his way up from his knees to come across the pitch. The first people he came across were referee Pádraig Hughes and his linesmen. During the week, a bubbling annoyance in the Brigid’s camp was the fact that a Crossmaglen man had been given the game, a fact that Kevin McStay made a point of declaring “daft” in his post-match press conference. But here, Curran not only shook Hughes’s hand, he wrapped him in a bearhug and wrestled him to the ground.

“Thank God the game was over – he could have booked me! I have to say about the referee, he was from Crossmaglen and you know Gaelic games are so parochial . . . But I think he did very well throughout the game. I’d say he’s probably the last referee I’ll knock to the ground.”

Is he though? Curran’s eyes started to cloud and moisten as we asked him the inevitable.

“Well, I did an interview in The Irish Times last week and I said at the time that game is given to you and the game is taken away from you. When that time comes, we have two young goalkeepers coming up behind me in Shane Mannion and Tom Finnerty and I’ll give them the best of my experiences and the best of my advice. I won’t stand in their way. I’ve really had an exceptional career, I have an exceptional two kids and fantastic wife who’ve given me wonderful times. I think that’s a good career, lads.”