GAA Football

Ederney aiming to stop Fermanagh SFC six in-a-row for Derrygonnelly

The Ederney St Joseph's panel who won the Fermanagh SFC in 1968. Liam McLaughlin is sixth from the left, back row.
Picture courtesy of Declan Monaghan

Fermanagh SFC Final: Derrygonnelly Harps (holders) v Ederney St Joseph's (Brewster Park, 6pm Sunday)

YOU never retire from the farming. As an approach to life, that can work well for sport too.

Keep ploughing on, planting the seeds, and hoping to reap the rewards at some stage.

Liam McLaughlin is still "a bit of a farmer now, a full-time farmer since I retired from my other job", which was as a civil servant with the fisheries in Fermanagh.

He stuck at the football for years too, with Ederney St Joseph's, saying: "I kept going far too long, until I was 36 or thereabouts. I'm probably paying for it now with all the aches and pains."

He did play on an Intermediate Championship winning side in 1979, but if you'd told him a decade earlier that his club would still be seeking its second senior crown more than half a century on he'd never have believed you.

There was talent in the Ederney area in the Sixties. "The club had folded for a while and then people about Lack started it up again, then when they retired it went back to Ederney again. All in the one parish."

The club's own history beautifully relates the founding of that GAA club in the parish of Culmaine: "One fine afternoon, on the first Sunday in May 1929, under an ash tree in Maguire's meadow at Cahore, behind Moneyvriece School, one of the parish's curates, Fr Ned O'Flanagan, sowed the first seeds of Gaelic football in Ederney by establishing a branch of the GAA and selecting a football team that would later be affiliated to the Fermanagh Junior League."

That original Ederney club withdrew from senior football 1957 but a group of younger players under the tutelage of Fr Tom Marron formed the core of a new club, Lack, named for the nearby village. Their ability brought them the 1961 Junior Championship, followed the next year by the inaugural Intermediate Championship.

However, in 1966, the club 're-branded' as Ederney St Joseph's – to great effect. The Intermediate Championship was regained that year, beating old rivals Aughadrumsee.

Promoted to the senior ranks for 1967, Ederney immediately reached the final, and took holders Devenish to a replay. "We were disappointed we lost," recalls McLaughlin, "but I don't mind so much about that as the year we won it, '68. I was around 21. That was my second or third year with the senior team."

Trailing by four points at half-time to Newtownbutler, 1-3 to 2-4 down, Ederney put in a huge second half performance to triumph by 3-7 to 2-6, with their goals coming from Tony and Joe Maguire, and – decisively in the second half – Noel Monaghan.

Apart from corner-back Brendan Gallagher, Ederney were a team of Ms – six of the seven McGrath brothers started, including Anthony, father of Allstar midfielder Marty, who's still playing at the age of 39. There were also four Maguires, two Monaghans, and goalkeeper Joe McVeigh.

Liam McLaughlin says the celebrations were fairly tame: "There wasn't much – Maguire's lorry, Martin went round the town with the players on the back of it. They had a wee lorry for delivering meal and stuff around the town. The players all got on the back of it – and there was some amount of cubs on the roof of it."

In that annus mirabilis, Ederney also won the League and the Minor Championship, leading to a special function attended by three of Down's All-Ireland winning footballers, Colm McAlarney, Ray McConville, and Peter Rooney, and the 'Sam Maguire Cup', with music by the Pride of Erne Ceili Band.

Ederney surely expected to have the New York Gold Cup back soon enough, but McLaughlin remembers: "It fell away. The next year, I don't know what happened. Claude Maguire, our captain and full-back, emigrated to England, for one thing. We just went downhill. Teemore beat us in the first round."

The St Joseph's even went down to Junior football, although they did win that Intermediate Championship in their silver jubilee year of 1979.

Ederney got back to the Fermanagh SFC Final in 2006, under current boss Michael Cassidy, but were well-beaten by Enniskillen Gaels.

Winning two years ago would have been a dream come true, half a century on from that first senior success. Instead it turned into a nightmare as Derrygonnelly romped to a 12-point victory.

In this extraordinary year, though, there is hope of an upset. There may be a few visits to the Glendarragh wishing well before throw-in.

"Maybe this is the year of the underdogs," suggests McLaughlin, "for Dungannon beat Trillick." He doesn't approve of that being via a penalty shoot-out, but he'd take that method on Sunday night, hoping to witness Ederney win in Brewster Park: "Indeed, anything at all, to get the hands on the cup."

 

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Fermanagh SFC Final: Derrygonnelly Harps (holders) v Ederney St Joseph's (Brewster Park, 6pm Sunday)

HISTORY is made all the time – but some history is more memorable than other aspects.

Both Derrygonnelly and Ederney can achieve a feat which will be talked about for decades, albeit for very different reasons.

The challengers, St Joseph's, are seeking only their second Fermanagh SFC triumph, 52 years on from their one and only so far.

The Harps have won eight over the past quarter-century. Much better than that, their currenty team has already exceeded the recent four-in-a-row run of Roslea (2011-14, matching that club's 1955-58 streak) and are aiming to equal the great Enniskillen Gaels sides around the turn of the millennium who won six consecutively from 1998 to 2003.

The next challenge would be the seven successive crowns collected by Teemore Shamrocks, from 1911 to 1917 – but obviously their focus will be on tomorrow and Ederney.

Outside the county this final may be regarded as a foregone (six-won?) conclusion, not least because Derrygonnelly have – unusually for a Fermanagh club – made progress in Ulster, including defeating Tyrone champs Trillick last year, albeit on penalties.

Yet another more recent defeat for their near neighbours across the county border, in this year's Tyrone decider, may also offer hope to Ederney. Dungannon Clarke's shocked the St Macartan's as they aimed to retain the trophy, the town team instead ending a 64-year wait for senior county success.

Both teams have impressed in reaching this stage. Derrygonnelly disposed of Roslea by four points and Kinawley by eight; Ederney matched that scoring difference of 12 but in a more high-scoring manner, with six-point successes over Belnaleck and Teemore.

The concern for their manager Michael Cassidy, who took them to the 2006 final against Enniskillen as well as the 2018 decider, is about what they've conceded – five goals and nine points in those two games.

Gary McKenna netted twice in the Harps' semi-final win and their other scoring threats include young Micheal Glynn, and Conall, Garvan, and Ryan Jones.

The latter's battle at midfield with 39-year-old Marty McGrath could be key. As reaching two finals in both League and Championship in recent years would indicate, Ederney have talent coming through too, even if they haven't got the medals to show for it – yet.

Ederney scored even bigger en route to the final two years ago, but will find it tough against a Derrygonnelly defence marshalled by Michael Jones and Tiarnan Daly.

However, this Ederney team is more experienced now and, while Derrygonnelly will still be strong favourites, this time there shouldn't be the width of Lower Lough Erne between the sides.

 

Paths to the final:

Derrygonnelly Harps:

Quarter-final: Derrygonnelly 0-10 Roslea 0-6

Semi-final: Derrygonnelly 2-7 Kinawley 1-2

 

Ederney St Joseph's:

Quarter-final: Ederney 1-11 Belnaleck 2-2

Semi-final: Ederney 2-16 Teemore 3-7

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