As he spoke to the assembled hacks on the side of the pitch in Tullamore on Sunday, St Patrick’s manager Fergal Reel was not getting carried away by the celebratory atmosphere after watching his side’s first provincial win since 2003.
“It’s good to win today, but it’s only one championship match and we’ll not get carried way. We’re only into the first round proper now really. But still it’s a match won and it’s great to win it.”
The one fear that lingered, according to Reel, was whether his charges could step up to this level after a relatively straightforward charge to the county title just three weeks ago.
“Even the championship final (against Dreadnots) we won with a bit to spare, on the scoreboard anyway. But we didn’t know today if we could rise to this level. It probably took us a while to rise to this level, the first half was a scrappy affair and I thought we were a bit tentative and nervous early on. But as the game progressed we grew into it.”
Despite the tense finale to the clash, Reel was of the belief that St Patrick’s should have won the game more comfortably and they will need to learn how to put teams away if they are to progress further this year.
“We probably should have won the game by more. But this is a learning curve, when you’ve an opportunity to put a game to bed, and it nearly cost us. But if we learn nothing else from today hopefully we’ll learn that.”
Reel also revealed that his side regrouped at half time and improved in the second half.
“We probably should have been ahead at half time, we’d a lot of wides. But we addressed a few things at half time and we played a bit better in the second half.”
Ultimately the result hinged on the converted penalty which gave St Pat’s a valuable lead at a vital time and the Ulster man knew how important it was.
“Karl took it well. I didn’t see the incident so I can’t comment, but yeah it was important. But when they got the goal it was difficult. But we got away with it.”
Yet although that penalty was crucial, it took additional points at important moments to see the peninsula team home.
“Once you keep knocking points over you keep the distance and that was important,” explained Reel. “There’s still a lot of hurt here from last year, but at the end of the day we’ve only won one game in this championship so we won’t get carried away.”
When Rhode captain Niall McNamee score his side’s goal with three minutes left, Reel had only one thing on his mind.
“I was hoping the referee would just blow it up,” he joked. “We shouldn’t have given them the opportunity to get their goal, the game should have been put to bed at that stage. But we’ll learn from that.”
It also took some tremendous defending to close out the win, particularly from the St Pat’s number one Sean Connor.
“Sean is a tremendous goalkeeper,” praised Reel. “He has a great presence in general in the defence. They were two brilliant saves.
“But you can’t pick out individuals. As a team and as a squad if thirty lads I couldn’t fault any of them.”
Kildare champions Sarsfield are up next for St Patrick’s and a home tie is a valuable asset to have in such battles.
Yet Reel is solely concentrating on preparing his side for that big day.
“We’ve a fortnight to prepare. There’s a few injuries and knocks so we’ll get them tidied up. There’s also a league final to be addressed.
As he prepared to head back to Lordship, Reel praised the generous support from the travelling fans and dedicated the win to them.
“This is just one performance though, we want to build on it. The amount of support we had down here today is brilliant. And they deserved to get this result.”