Kilmacud captain Cunningham's dreams come through
By John Harrington
Shane Cunningham played a captain’s part in Kilmacud Crokes’ AIB All-Ireland SFC Final win over Glen on Sunday.
The powerful attacker scored two points from play and also won the vital first-half penalty that Shane Walsh converted.
After the game he admitted climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand to lift the Andy Merrigan Cup was a lifelong ambition fulfilled.
“Yeah, dream come true,” said Cunningham. “I was here in 2009, I was 14 or 15 and I was watching Johnny Magee go up the steps.
“And all I was dreaming of was being part of a Kilmacud senior squad, never mind being on the team, never mind being captain. To get up those steps and lift that trophy on behalf of the club was unbelievable.
“We were disappointed with the first five minutes, 10 minutes. We gave them a bit of a head-start. We clawed it back but Glen are a great team and they battled hard into the last five minutes.
“We had to draw on our experience with the bench. Cian O’Connor has been an unbelievable player for us over the past two years. He basically sacrifices himself for us. So I kind of had that in the back of my mind, that the substitutes could come on and play their part for us.”
Kilmacud lost last year’s All-Ireland Final to Kilcoo when they conceded a goal in injury-time of extra-time and they very nearly suffered a similar fate on Sunday.
Goalkeeper Conor Ferris pulled off a brilliant injury-time save from a side-footed Conor Glass shot that preserved their two-point lead and made amends for the concession of that goal against Kilcoo a year previously.
“It’s massive, a massive well done to him,” said Cunningham of his team-mate.
“There’s probably an awful lot of lazy analysis done in my opinion on last year, as in not just from the media and stuff, but just the general public, that it was Conor’s fault.
“We looked at it as a team. There were a load of errors in that last 30 seconds against Kilcoo, so from a squad point of view it was never a thing that we were blaming Conor, but he obviously felt personal responsibility like we all did, and for him to step up like he did today, it’s unbelievable.
“He’s the best shot stopper I’ve come up against.
“He is incredible. I wasn’t even watching it when the ball broke to Conor Glass, but thankfully, thankfully, he saved it.”