ON THE BALL Westport’s Liam Shevlin tries to go past Ballina's Conor McStay. Pic: Sportsfile
HE wore the smile of a man utterly contented with life. Liam Shevlin stood surrounded by loved ones in MacHale Park on Sunday evening, beaming from ear to ear. The Louth man had won a senior title with the club he joined this season and all was right with the world.
“I lost two senior finals in Louth (with Dreadnots), so I’m acutely aware of the difference in emotion between winning and losing. After we lost those finals in 2012 and ‘14 to a Paddy Keenan inspired St Pat’s, we went out those nights and honoured what we had achieved.
“But waking up the next morning having not won was heartbreaking. The difference of a winning Monday feeling and a losing Monday feeling is almost impossible to put into words,” the proud wing-back told The Mayo News before describing a conversation he had with some of the Westport players in the days before the final.
“When we lost those two finals in Louth we were youngsters. We thought we’d be back again and win one, but that’s not the way sport works. I was saying that to our young lads all week - we had to seize the day. And thankfully we did.
“When the final whistle sounded my primary emotion was utter relief. I knew then that waking up Monday morning would be brilliant. I’ll get out of bed, sit down and watch the match back and enjoy the feeling of us being winners.
“This is the highlight of my football career. My wife is from Mayo, Jane McWalter from Balla. She always said she wanted to live in Mayo so when lockdown came we said, ‘let’s go for it’ and we ended up in Westport. I’m 31 now, so I didn’t think I’d ever play in another senior final anywhere, never mind in Mayo where the standard of club football is through the roof.
“I was playing (for Westport) throughout the league but when the big guns came back I didn’t think I’d feature. But there were a few injuries and, from being well down the pecking order I found myself thrown into a county semi-final and then a final. It’s amazing really,” he added before describing what it was like in the heat of battle.
“It was very intense out there. The first ten minutes were cagey. They’d been scoring goals for fun all year and we were determined to shut them out. We did this well in the first half but at half-time we said we’d have to throw the shackles off a bit and attack more.
“We did and it worked. When we got the goal from the penalty I thought we were home and hosed, but then Ballina got a goal and I thought the momentum was with them. But speed and impact off the bench paid dividends for us and we looked the more likely to score in the last 15 minutes.”
What’s it like being a Louth man in the heart of Westport GAA?
“I couldn’t have joined a better club. They were so welcoming and I’m enjoying every second. I’m a primary school teacher in Breaffy but our kids, Hazel and Patrick, will be playing with Westport where we live and that’s important to me.
“A Wicklow man, Conor McGraynor, joined the club this year too so that took the heat off me. He has more gift of the gab than me so I could fade into the background a bit.
“The two of us get on very well and we love being involved with such a brilliant group of lads. I just love it, love it, love it.”