By Brendan McTaggart
Not all heroes wear capes. Some have a big bass hurl. At a time when Naomh Éanna needed a leader, Martin Curran answered the call. Five penalties faced, four saved and the other was blazed over the bar. The imagine of him standing on the 21 yard line, arms stretched and his teammates sprinting towards him to celebrate will be my lasting memory of the final. Lauded as their match winner, the Naomh Éanna ‘keeper wrote his name in their history books and indeed Ulster GAA’s history books.
The celebrations were still going strong but the Naomh Éanna shot stopper stepped away from the carnage and gave us his views on the match. Curran was hoping to avoid penalties but had enough belief in his own abilities: “I was hoping we would get over the line without facing penalties. I said to the lads the other week if it goes to penalties, I’d be pretty confident.
“After the first couple, I don’t think they were ever going to score a penalty to be honest.”
While most ‘keepers are stationary on their line, on their toes and eyeing that one movement or tale, Curran was bouncing across the goal line, up and down. It was something akin to Jerzy Dudek for Liverpool in 2005 or Bruce Grobbelaar in 1984. It worked for them then and it worked for Curran. “I seen some of the county keepers doing that back and forth across the line trying to make the goals look as small as possible. I think it was Stephen O’Keefe who I saw doing it first.
“Damian Casey is some striker of a ball. He seemed to be slightly fazed by it, hitting the ball straight down the middle. I thought I would keep it up and it worked.
“Some of the lads were asking me after about Dudek and Grobbelaar but I’m just absolutely delighted and it’s good for a goalkeeper to get some of the limelight for once.”
Seven down at half time of normal time, Naomh Éanna were faced with a huge task. Curran told us the half time team talk wasn’t quite what he was expecting: “Sambo message was we’re coming back to win this game. He’s unbelievably positive all the time. Sometimes I think he’s going to come in and eat the head off everyone but he was calm and said we were going to turn it around. I think the first 10 or 15 minutes of the second half we didn’t give them a sniff.
“First half we were completely overrun. They’re a big, strong and physical team. People were saying about a Tyrone team being all footballers, well they can’t just be called that after this. They completely ran over the top of us. Top defenders, boys out in front. I’ve never seen Ruairi Diamond beat for a ball and the man he was marking completely terrorised him all day. They’re a quality team and I think we were very lucky to overcome them in the end.”
Back to back Ulster titles in football and hurling, Naomh Éanna now embark on the All-Ireland trail. They will face the winners of Sier Kieraan of Offaly and Tullaroan from Kilkenny on the first week in January. Curran continued by telling us they will be bending the ear of those involved in the run to Croke Park at the start of the year: “There’s only four players involved who were part of the footballers last year. Those guys are very important, especially now we’re out of Ulster and this being new territory for a lot of lads. To be honest there was a lot of jealousy around the hurling panel last year watching the football lads. Obviously we were up supporting them in the club every night so we just want to emulate, go as far as we can and maybe go one step further.”