Ederney have the last laugh, defeating Derrygonnelly in Fermanagh final
Fermanagh SFC Final: Derrygonnelly Harps (holders) 1-6 Ederney St Joseph's 2-8
HE could laugh about it afterwards but Ederney manager Michael Cassidy admitted he felt the second half was "never" going to end.
Yet it did, after eight minute of added time, and the St Joseph's men deservedly ended their 52-year wait to be Fermanagh senior football champions on another incredible evening of club drama in Ulster.
Defeating Derrygonnelly Harps, who had won the last five Erne County crowns, and doing so by a five-point margin, was a heavenly feeling for Ederney after the disappointments they have suffered, including a 12-point thrashing in the decider just two years ago.
"It's a brilliant moment, hi, absolutely brilliant," said Cassidy. "We have waited a long time for this. Suffered defeat in two finals and I suppose we have been there and thereabouts for a right few years, contesting leagues and what-not. To finally get over the line in the big one, it means a hell of a lot."
When the Harps opened the scoring with a goal many in Ederney colours must have feared a repeat of the 2018 decider, which Derrygonnelly won by 12 points, but Cassidy believed in his team:
"I think their goal came against the run of play…The penalty was a penalty and that really settled us into the game."
Mark McAuley's successful spot-kick levelled matters and Ederney were never behind again, although Derrygonnelly stormed at them in the second half despite having midfielder Stephen McGullion sent off in the 35th minute:
"We knew we were going to have to face an onslaught from a team like Derrygonnelly, but we prepared and set up well. We had to try to hit them on the break…
"Listen, Derrygonnelly were going to come at us. You know when a team goes down a man they can lift it, and they did. At times we got a wee bit sloppy around the backline. But we could have had another goal, but the boys worked their socks off and were deserved winners."
Having also been the boss when Ederney lost their other senior final since 1968, 14 years ago against Enniskillen Gaels, Cassidy was a relieved man to win at last:
"I have been here a few times. This is my fourth year this time. We have finally got the monkey off our back so hopefully we can push on."
Key to the Ederney triumph was the performance of the legendary 39-year-old midfielder Marty McGrath, who scored a superb point and helped set up the second goal in a fabulous all-round display – although his manager wasn't at all surprised:
"Martin McGrath has never failed to deliver in the Championship. I can't speak enough about the man. He's a leader, and he brings it on Championship days. Always has done. You've seen the way yourselves he covered the grass there, he doesn't look his age. And he looks after himself. He is a great man to have about, a phenomenal leader."
Cassidy's son Sean scored that crucial second goal but he insisted: "Everybody put their shoulder to the wheel. It didn't matter who scored the goals as long as we got over the line."
The long wait since '68 is finally over, and Cassidy chuckled again when that team was mentioned: "I heard enough about them!"
The mighty men of 2020 will now be the talk of Ederney, and for years to come.