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St Enda's, Glengormley progress to All-Ireland IFC final

St Enda’s midfielder Joe Maskey is surrounded by well-wishers after producing a superb performance in Navan, highlight of which was a spectacular first half goal Picture by Seamus Loughran

AIB All-Ireland Club IFC semi-final: An Spidéal (Galway) 0-11 St Enda’s, Glengormley (Antrim) 3-9

SOME golden memories were made in Navan yesterday afternoon, the kind of which that will probably never dim with time.

As the last seconds of the fourth minute of stoppage-time ticked away on the big screen in Pairc Tailteann, scores of kids down by the wire, a happy sea of black and amber, counted each one down.

In high-pitched tones, they shouted in unison: ‘Ten, nine, eight, seven, six…’ - each kid inspired for the rest of their lives.

The demoralised An Spidéal players were probably wanting the sound of the final whistle just as much as St Enda’s, Glengormley.

For this All-Ireland intermediate semi-final was over before half-time.

The Antrim champions brought their ‘A’ game and were superb.

Not only will they take some stopping in next month’s All-Ireland final against Kerry champions Kilcummin, they will take some stopping for as long as they stick together.

Read more: Bill Neely: St Enda's story should be Hollywood blockbuster

There was so much to admire about the Hightown Road footballers in Navan yesterday.

Huge credit must go to manager Frank Fitzsimons and his backroom team. This was the biggest game of the players’ lives but they dismissed the occasion and simply played the game.

Their intensity, their fitness, their tackling, their composure, their hunger and, most of all, their confidence was a sight to behold.

Due to injury, Damien Gault hadn’t started a championship match all season. He slotted in at full-back and was imperious.

Nobody got past corner-back Killian Jennings, who gave an exhibition of clean tackling.

Centre-back James McAuley played more in the opposition’s half of the field than his own. Ethan Gibson didn’t put a foot wrong at midfield and claimed numerous assists.

And there is not a better-balanced forward line in club football in Ulster than St Enda’s.

Read more: St Enda's Glengormley - a club that never took a backward step

Peter and Kristian Healy played like thoroughbreds. Every time Ruairi Scott galloped forward, An Spidéal had no answers.

Trying to contain Odhran Eastwood was like a tank trying to corner a wasp, while corner-forward Eoin Nagle was a box of tricks and never lost one possession.

All over the field, the Connacht champions couldn’t live with them.

But, like all things, the ‘Big Sleep’, the imperturbable Joe Maskey put everyone in the shade in Navan yesterday.

The towering St Enda’s midfielder scored a goal players only dream about.

When An Spidéal ‘keeper Maghnus Breathnach gallivanted up the pitch, only to be turned over by some tenacious tackling, Maskey collected possession and let fly from 50 metres.

The ball soared high into the air and was destined for one place – An Spidéal’s unguarded net.

Maskey’s memorable major put the Hightown Road men 3-4 to 0-4 ahead.

Although An Spidéal would hit the next three points to narrow the deficit to 3-4 to 0-7, the Galway men were a beaten docket after Maskey’s wonder goal four minutes before the interval.

Taking a break from signing autographs, the club’s reluctant legend said: “I’ve never scored a goal like that and I probably won’t again. Somebody came over to me and showed me it on a WhatsApp video. The ‘keeper fumbled it and I just said I’d give it a go.

“It’s unbelievable,” Maskey added. “I knew at half-time that we were in a good place mentally and physically. We went out in the second half and just kept up the pace. What a feeling.”

In the eighth minute, the fleet-footed Kristian Healy netted after a flowing move involving Gibson and Nagle, and 12 minutes later Ruairi Scott grabbed St Enda’s second of three first-half majors despite a gallant attempt from Breathnach.

Antaine O Laoi and Cormac Lee grabbed seven frees between them for An Spidéal but each score was token resistance.

The Ulstermen had further goal chances in the second half, with Eastwood hitting the post and Peter Healy watching his effort come off the crossbar.

A minor quibble was that St Enda’s could have been more clinical in front of the posts at times, but they probably knew their opponents didn’t have enough quality to hurt them in the second half.

The Connacht men persisted in running the ball and rarely, if ever, kicked it into their three-man full-forward line.

They found a couple of openings at various stages but they simply couldn’t live with St Enda’s ferocious tackling.

In the closing stages, Ciaran O Laoi was red-carded for a wild tackle on Peter Healy.

In his first year in charge at St Enda’s, Fitzsimons has delivered county and provincial silverware and guided the club to their first-ever All-Ireland final against Kerry’s Kilcummin on February 9 at Croke Park.

Afterwards, Fitzsimons said: “The travelling support here was fantastic. It’s a super club. The boys went out there and expressed themselves for most of the game. It’s good to see that because the last thing you want to do is come down here and not perform. That’s all we asked and that’s what we got today.

“Peter Healy, Kristian Healy, Odhran Eastwood, boys like that, James McAuley, Joe Maskey – calm heads.

“Eoin Nagle was fantastic up front. It’s going to take a good team to beat us. I’m proud of the boys today; that was some performance.”

The real-life fairytale up on the Hightown Road continues. This St Enda’s team will take some stopping next month.

An Spideal (Galway): M Breathnach; E O Droighneain (0-1), E O Conlain, L Kelly; C O Laoi, M O Curran, S O Droighneain; D Mac an Ri, PE O Curraoin (0-1); S O Curraoin (0-1), A O Laoi (0-4 frees), L O Conghaile; B Connolly, C Lee (0-3 frees), C O Caoimh Subs: A O Curraoin (0-1) for L O Conghaile (54), A O Droighnneain for C O Caoimh (63)

Blood substitution: A O Droighnneain for E O Conlain (24-26)

Yellow cards: D Mac Na Ri (54)

Red cards: C O Laoi (58)

Black card: B Mac Cathmhaoil replaced E O Droighneain (43-44)

St Enda’s: P Flood; K Jennings, D Gault, M McNamee; C Lyttle, J McAuley, C McAuley; E Gibson, J Maskey (1-0); P Healy, R Scott (1-1), K Healy (1-0); M Morgan, O Eastwood (0-7, 0-6 frees), E Nagle (0-1) Subs: C O’Neill for M Morgan (h/t), P Curran for E Gibson (61), D Walsh for O Eastwood (63)

Yellow cards: M Morgan (6), J Maskey (15), D Gault (29), C McAuley (39), C O’Neill (50), K Healy (61)

Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh)

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