BY NOEL HORGAN
LUKE Nolan has given tremendous service to Gabriel Rangers, serving the club in a number of capacitites over the years, so it was entirely fitting that he was a member of the backroom team which masterminded last Sunday’s historic triumph.
‘I can’t express just how much this victory means to me, because I started out as a player when the club was formed in 1973, and I’ve been involved in some way or another since then.
‘To be honest, I never thought we’d see a day like this, but it’s been well worth the wait, and we’re going to have some night when we bring the cup home now,’ he said.
Nolan agreed that the team produced an excellent performance against Shamrocks, stating that the foundations for victory were laid in the first half.
‘Having played into a gale of a wind, to go in two points up at half time was the winning of the game, and we really opened up at the start of the second half.
‘We knew we had extremely good forwards, and they got some great scores on the day, while our backs squeezed up in the second half, and, all in all, it was an outstanding team effort.
‘It’s been a very tough campaign, and I think the two hard battles we had against Knockagree in the semi-final stood to us big-time,’ he remarked.
Gabriel Rangers coach Mike O’Brien also felt they were in a very strong position at half time, but he didn’t believe the deal was done and dusted at that stage.
‘I was very happy to be facing into the second half with a two-point lead, but – wind or no wind – you never have any game won at half time, and I thought we had been a bit loose at the back at times in the first half.But we tightened up, and we got good ball into the forwards who we knew could do a lot of damage, and, to a man, I felt we played brilliantly in the second half,’ he said.
O’Brien revealed he was quietly confident coming up, although he admitted he was a bit worried that the two semi-final games against Knocknagree might have taken a lot out of the players.
‘I was wondering if the lads had enough in the legs to go again, but, as things turned out, there was no fear of that.Once we got the two goals in the third quarter, I suppose the game was over, but, in fairness to Shamrocks, they kept going until the very end. The bottom line is we couldn’t have expected any more from our lads, they gave a great display in the second half, we had no weak links, which is exactly what you want to see in a county final,’ commented the Castlehaven man.