"Everyone told us we were too old and that the best was gone from this team"
Ulster 2018 was always going to be a write off for Castlerahan.
A club burdened by the heartache of years previous, their Cavan county final win was the be-all and end-all. And it was the sweetest thing ever.
The provincial championship was a mere footnote to the perfect campaign. Beyond the Oliver Plunkett cup, everything else was relative.
Three county final losses in a row up to that. They were on the cusp of doing the four. Six points down with 20 to go, Crosserlough looked home and hosed.
Somehow, Castlerahan eked it out to win by one. You could write off the next two weeks.
“They partied the whole week. I only got them back on Tuesday night," said manager Donal Keogan after they exited Ulster at the hands of Eoghan Rua Coleraine.
A fortnight on from that magic win and they went down swinging in the provincial championship.
That was 2018. This is a different Castlerahan now.
With the monkey off the back, you can forget about the four-in-a-row. Instead, the cup is back in Castlerahan after they beat Ramor United on Sunday. But the celebrations have taken a very different tune this time around.
Rather than a whole week of it, the lads were into the schools in Castlerahan and Ballyjamesduff by Monday morning, as star player Cian Mackey told Colm Parkinson on Thursday's GAA Hour Show.
"Last year was the first for the club so it was a hectic couple of days," said Mackey.
"This year was a little bit calmer alright. We were in the schools in Castlerahan and Ballyjamesduff, it was good to get out early and get them jobs done early in the day..."
Congratulations to Cormac Daly who was named Man of the Match in yesterday’s county final! As he’d say himself “Allez allez allez!” 🇱🇻 pic.twitter.com/u4xxGKuCOO
— Castlerahan GAA (@Castlerahan_GAA) October 14, 2019
The experience of last year's watershed stood them in good stead.
"Winning last year left us a bit more composed and comfortable on the ball. We got the early goal and we were never really in doubt then about pushing on. There's confidence in this team and we felt comfortable of winning the game at any stage."
Mackey knows how hard these county championship wins are to come by.
"People who have loads of them (County championships) say they're not too hard to win. But there's many a man that doesn't have any. It's a tricky one to win. Getting over the line is a completely different ball game to just getting to the final..."
He knows all about that. Coming into the final, Mackey claims that there was a sense within the Castlerahan camp that they were being written off by many in the county.
A tweet at 6.00 on Monday morning, which tagged a few local journalists gave an insight to the mindset the drove the team on this year.
— cian mackey (@CianMackey) October 14, 2019
"We were told last year we were too old," says Mackey.
"Then when we were trying to get Donal back to manage us this year, everyone that we approached to take the job told us we were too old and that the best was gone from this team. I singled out some of the media in the early hours. It was just light-hearted banter," he added.
"We've been wrote off for years. Last year, we were told we stole the county final. We still firmly believe we're the best team in Cavan. For us to do the job again this year settles a lot of people talking on the high stools we'll say!"
These lads will be a different proposition in Ulster this year.
You can listen to the Mackey interview, and much more club talk from Monday's GAA Hour Show.