ELATED Thomas Courts says leading Kelty Hearts to a second Super League title in three seasons was even sweeter than their first.

And the New Central Park boss insists it is just reward for his players putting their “heart and soul” into a memorable campaign that saw them finish with a record 78-points total.

Defeat last Wednesday for Bonnyrigg Rose – the only team who could have caught Kelty – ended their championship ambitions before the top two met in Saturday’s final game of the season.

The home side got the party started in style as Scott Dalziel’s well-taken half volley, top scorer Brian Ritchie’s 20th goal of the season and Archie Campbell’s late finish sealed an emphatic 3-0 win for the champions.

Speaking to Press Sport this week, Courts commented: “There was real elation last Wednesday, although I was comfortable and confident going into Saturday come what may. We recognise that Bonnyrigg pushed us all the way but I felt our players were gaining confidence from recent results, were in good form and that we had players returning from injury. Bonnyrigg were racking up goals and wins but we had some big games recently ourselves.

“I knew beforehand that Linlithgow hadn’t lost in their previous three visits to Bonnyrigg, so although they’ve had a turbulent season, I thought there was a chance they could get something from the game. I went across to watch; not especially to see Bonnyrigg lose but to gain a competitive advantage ahead of the game on Saturday.

“It was a phenomenal feeling; I was especially pleased for the players because we set high standards, not just in terms of performances and results, but professionalism. At the end of 40 weeks where they’ve put their heart and soul into the club, to have that silverware and medal does make you feel proud as a manager.

“It’s been a tough run-in that we’ve encountered against Bo’ness, Hill of Beath, Linlithgow and Bonnyrigg, and our championship credentials have been called into question a little bit. The players have answered that.

“The last Super League title that we won came on the back of a near relegation. As a group we were not expected to go near so this one feels sweeter because there was more expectation on us. The players have handled it so well.”

A 4-2 win over Bonnyrigg – who took Kelty’s crown 12 months ago – on the opening day sparked a remarkable 26-game unbeaten run in all competitions for Hearts and Courts believes that result sent a message to their rivals they were title contenders – and instilled belief in his own players.

“Bonnyrigg won the title last year and were a top side but when we beat them 4-2, it sent a message to the rest of the league that we were ready to challenge,” he continued.

“We went 26 games unbeaten and created a gap that, ultimately, proved insurmountable. Bonnyrigg were playing Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and were building some momentum but we were winning some big games, so I asked the players to maintain that momentum which we were building quietly in the background.

“We had a real edge on Saturday; it was a professional performance and we have proven we deserve to be Super League champions. We looked fresh, invigorated and confident and, especially at home, we play some nice stuff.

“I’m pleased for the players because they’ve put in a lot of hard work. It’s been a collective effort.”