Video: Brendan Crossan: The sky is the limit for All-Ireland finalists Naomh Éanna
TG4 chose their ‘live’ match well last Sunday.
Their channel's producers must have been punching the air when Joe ‘The Big Sleep’ Maskey thumped that ball high into the sunny skies overlooking Navan and watch it land in An Spidéal’s unguarded net.
Social media went crazy. The people of Dingle were mesmerised. The Aran Islands came to a standstill. Even the grazing sheep in Malin Head sensed something great had happened in the Midlands.
The Hightown Road was silent, probably because all the residents around the St Enda’s Glengormley club were in the main stand of Pairc Tailteann living the moment.
It was fate goalkeeper Maghnus Breathnach was meant to dart up the field without actually knowing what he was doing.
It was fate that An Spidéal’s full-back didn’t bother guarding the empty goal when Breathnach took the head staggers.
It was fate that big Joe Maskey was born to be standing on that exact blade of grass in Pairc Tailteann in the 26th minute of the first half on Sunday January 20 2019, for the ball to land in his arms and for him to do what he was never coached to do: hammer the ball from 50 yards and score an unforgettable goal.
It put the Antrim and Ulster intermediate champions 3-4 to 0-4 ahead.
At that precise moment, An Spidéal were gone.
Joe Maskey’s legend has grown to a monstrous level, to the point where the big, bashful midfielder looks in awe of his growing band of young followers after games.
It’ll reach the point where Maskey – a baker by trade - will become so famous that he won’t have to bake another lemon drizzle cake in his life.
In 20 years time, he’ll be a regular on the GAA’s after-dinner circuit reminiscing about his wonder goal in Navan.
With each passing year, it will be 50 metres, then 60 metres and 70.
And the eagle-eyed Jimmy McNulty will be asked all about how he managed to capture the moment on camera (pictured here).
Joe Maskey is one of many success stories of the Naomh Éanna club.
His first love is hurling.
Deemed a “slow developer”, something clicked with Maskey over the last 18 months, to such an degree he became an indispensible member of the Antrim senior hurling team in 2018.
He was well on his way to an inaugural Joe McDonagh Allstar award at wing half-back before he broke a bone in his foot against Carlow.
If the name of St Enda’s Glengormley hadn’t seeped into the GAA consciousness since their fantastic Ulster final win over Cavan champions Mullahoran at the beginning of December, Joe Maskey’s amazing goal last weekend ensured it did.
Nearly everyone knows by now St Enda’s was one of the most attacked clubs in Ireland, losing five members during the ‘Troubles’.
Even well-known news broadcaster Bill Neely, a former St Enda’s player back in the mid-70s, created more traction on social media by suggesting that Hollywood script-writers should be fighting over the rights to chart the club’s rise from the ashes.
“It's a wonderful story,” beamed Bill. “It should be written about in all Irish newspapers and be an inspiration to everybody.
“It's a universal story, there is hope and inspiration for everybody, this is the phoenix story and more. This is Hollywood movie stuff.”
Read more: St Enda's qualify for the All-Ireland final
Unfairly dismissed by Antrim a couple of seasons ago, St Enda’s boss Frank Fitzsimons just adds an extra glow to the narrative.
If there’s an ego in the Lamh Dhearg clubman he keeps it well hidden.
He depicts himself as something of an accidental hero in the club’s remarkable climb.
A teetotaller, Frank insisted he was more looking forward to watching the American Football on Sunday night than the post-match celebrations.
The club also celebrated Ciaran McCavana – one of their own – becoming county chairman in December.
And a penny for Thomas McNulty’s thoughts – a member of Fitzsimons’ backroom team – who along with his brother, Gerard, planted the seed in the minds of the vast majority of the current senior panel over a decade ago.
Ageing warrior Philly Curran summed it up best.
“This team is so confident – I’m always a pessimist – but the younger fellas feel they’re always going to win,” said 34-year-old Curran.
“James McAuley, our club captain, is one of the most confident footballers I’ve seen. He is definitely the best centre back in the county.”
After watching them completely demoralise All-Ireland semi-final opponents An Spidéal, the most impressive element of their performance was how they backed themselves.
They play flat-to-the-mat football. They beat the Galway champions with their intensity alone.
To develop Curran’s point, this group of footballers are so confident they don’t mull over the risks.
For instance, James McAuley spent more time in An Spidéal’s half of the field than he did his own.
At times, Mick McNamee played as the spare man in front of Damien Gault and Killian Jennings, but the pair played with such assurance they didn’t need McNamee minding the space in front of them.
Of course, An Spidéal weren’t nearly savvy enough to compete with their opponents in Navan.
They persisted in running the ball when St Enda’s were prepared to mark one-on-one at the back.
Undoubtedly, All-Ireland final opponents Kilcummin won’t be as one dimensional in their approach as An Spidéal at Croke Park on February 9 but this St Enda’s team will take some stopping.
And they’re probably feeding off the goodwill from every corner of Ireland once they breached the provincial stage.
They are everybody’s second favourite team.
“There is a massive prize in front of them now – an All-Ireland final,” said Fitzsimons.
“And I think the build-up has to be enjoyed, and they have been enjoying their football all year. We’ll be alright.”
Judging by their devil-may-care approach to last weekend’s All-Ireland semi-final, the sky is the limit for Naomh Éanna.
- St Enda’s lost five members to loyalist violence during the Troubles
- Bill Neely: St Enda's story should be Hollywood blockbuster