By Niall Gartland
UNTIL now, Peter Ward’s career has been largely characterised by a series of near-misses.
The Magheracloone captain was on the losing team in Monaghan Senior Championship finals in 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2017, but he kept the chin up during the lean times even though he could easily have felt sorry for himself.
Self-pity would have been particularly understandable given he made his debut a year after Magheracloone won their one and only senior championship title all the way back in 2004, and an Intermediate title from 2012 didn’t do much to correct the imbalance.
Things are looking up, however, and captaining his side to a county and provincial double would be some achievement if Saturday’s Ulster final against Galbally goes according to plan.
“I missed out on our first and only senior championship and I’ve lost plenty since. That’s the way it goes but we can only look forward. It is good to get a taste of silverware though.”
As you might have figured by now, Magheracloone have had some bad times, but last year was the worst of the lot.
The partial collapse of an old mine at the club grounds last September caused devastating damage, splitting their pitch in two when sinkholes emerged, and their relegation from the senior championship didn’t make them feel any better about life.
They’re using temporary facilities at the moment, and relegation wasn’t the worst thing in the world in the grand scheme of things.
Ward commented: “The Intermediate Championship has been great for our confidence. In the last few years we’d been competitive in the championship but we were always in the bottom three or four of the league. We weren’t enjoying our football so it’s been great to go on a bit of a run.”
“It’s nearly come full circle this year, this time last season we’d no facilities or anything and there was a lot of uncertainty around the parish never mind the football club. Hopefully this year we’ve laid the stepping stones for things to improve.”
Ward, who jokes that they’ll have to get the bunting back up after it was taken down in the wake of their Monaghan Intermediate Championship victory, isn’t the only elder statesman on the team.
Tommy Freeman needs no introduction, and he’s still going strong, making a particularly big impact in their Ulster Championship quarter-final victory over Foreglen when things were looking decidedly dicey. They were shaky that day, conceding two goals in the second-half, but were far more composed in their semi-final win over Down team Glenn.
Ward commented: “Tommy’s still playing really well, everyone knows that if you give him half a yard he’ll get a score. He’s great to have him helping around the younger lads and giving them direction.
“Our win over Glenn was a different kind of performance from us. It was a controlled sort of performance, we got a good start and kept that distance between us without being spectacular. We were disappointed with some aspects of our play but we were still fairly comfortable throughout the game.”