St Enda's, Glengormley focused on making history in Ulster Intermediate Championship final showdown
THE goal for St Enda’s at the start of 2018 was to stay in Antrim’s Division One.
With that achieved the Glengormley club refocused on winning the intermediate championship.
They did that too and now they are focused on doing what no club from their county ever has: winning the Ulster intermediate title.
Given that St Enda’s hadn’t won a championship at senior level in their 62-year history before this season, it’s an understatement to say that these are great days, new dizzy heights for the club.
Former Antrim manager Frank Fitzsimons is the man behind their meteoric rise and a young and the talented panel of players at St Enda's has benefited from his knowhow and experience. But it’s a two-way street.
“It’s the most enjoyable time I’ve had in the last four or five years,” said Fitzsimons.
“In county management you can’t really get your hands dirty, you’re organizing this, that and the other but with this you can actually get into the training and do the drills yourself.
“The atmosphere is brilliant, it has been a breath of fresh air for me. It has revitalized me and it’s fantastic for the players and their club and their families.
“The reaction on Saturday after we beat Tattyreagh (the Tyrone champions)… There were tears on the pitch, it was brilliant to see.”
Dunloy (2007) and Moneyglass (2004) are the only clubs to have come out of Antrim to reach an Ulster Intermediate final and both fell short in their deciders.
So St Enda’s stand on the brink of history and Cavan’s Mullahoran – senior champions in 2012 – provide the opposition at the Athletic Grounds on December 1. Fitzsimons is well aware that the Breffni ‘Dreadnoughts’ will be shorter odds to take the title.
“I would see them as favourites,” he admitted.
“They won a senior championship in 2012 so they would have that tradition and that bit of experience. It’s going to be a massive task for us, they (Mullahoran) have come through two really tight games so it will be very difficult for us; we’ll need to be ready on the night.
“But the belief is there in our team and I think it’ll come down to which team makes less mistakes on the day. It will be tight but we’ll need to be on our game because a team like Mullahoran can put you to the sword too.
“In saying that, if they’re not on their guard we can do the same to them. If we can go and produce a performance we can come out with the right result.”
Fitzsimons was accompanied to Wednesday’s media night at Tyrone’s Garvaghey centre by team captain James McAuley and midfielder Joe Maskey, two of the outstanding youngsters who have been at the forefront of the St Enda’s run this year.
Others to impress include goalkeeper Paddy Flynn, Peter Healy, Kristian Healy, teenage forward Owen Nagle, Odhran Eastwood and Maskey’s evergreen midfield partner Philly Curran.
“They are fantastic clubmen,” said Fitzsimons.
“They’re what clubmen were like 20 years ago when I was playing. Everything they do, they do it for the club and there’s a real good buzz about the place.
“They run their own functions to raise a bit of money – they ran a night at the races which was first class and I suppose they appreciate it all a bit more when they’re doing that.”
The craic is good but when it’s time to work the players have trained hard under the supervision of Fitzsimons, Pat Hughes and Brian Magee (the former WBA super-middleweight champion).
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect because I’d only ever taken county teams or my own club but after a few weeks with the boys it’s been just like being at your own club,” said Fitzsimons.
“We have a bit of a laugh – the boys enjoyed the championship wins and they deserved to - but they know when it’s time to take it seriously.
“It (winning the title) would be a good result for Antrim, a shot in the arm because everything is negative with Casement and stuff. We need something to lift us.
“I don’t know if it would life Antrim but it would definitely lift St Enda’s.”