GAA Football

Ederney stun Derrygonnelly to end 52-year wait for Fermanagh SFC

The new Fermanagh SFC champions, Ederney St Joseph's.
Pic: Philip Walsh 
Kenny Archer at Brewster Park

Fermanagh SFC Final: Derrygonnelly Harps (holders) 1-6 Ederney St Joseph’s 2-8

TIME moves more slowly than treacle when you’re trying to hold onto a precious lead but Ederney eventually bridged their 52-year gap to enjoy the sweet taste of success as Fermanagh senior champions again.

In this extraordinary, epic year it was probably predictable that the St Joseph’s would deny the dominant force in the Erne County, but the fact that they stopped six-in-a-row-seeking Derrygonnelly Harps from scoring even a single point from play is testament to the victors’ amazing efforts.

As in the Tyrone final a week earlier the holders had started strongly, Micheal Glynn firing a brilliant goal for their opening score after just five minutes – but after that they struggled to break down the white wall which Ederney put up against them.

Mark McAuley equalised for Ederney at 1-1 apiece on the quarter-hour, putting away a penalty after corner-forward Ryan Morris was fouled, and the underdogs never trailed after that.

Indeed they opened up a four-point lead by the break, helped by two frees from goalkeeper Chris Snow, either side of a huge score from that mighty man McGrath, to make it 1-5 to 1-1 by half-time.

Derrygonnelly gave it all they had, bossing the second half despite losing midfielder Stephen McGullion to a yellow and black card sending-off just five minutes after the teams turned around, but they could not get less than a goal between the teams on the scoreboard.

Instead, Ederney manager Michael Cassidy’s son Sean finished off a ridiculous counter-attack in the 53rd minute, with three white runners racing clear into the Derrygonnelly half – after the mighty Marty McGrath had set them free.

The astonishing 39-year-old was named ‘Man of the Match’ but Ederney had a host of heroes, including the McCusker brothers, Declan and Paul.

The latter could have eased their nerves had he grabbed a goal following a breakaway in the 38th minute but after a great run he shot into Harps ’keeper Jack Kelly’s midriff.

Sean Cassidy did score a terrific point to stretch the advantage to five points but the tension and the weight of history seemed to get to Ederney, who sat back deep in their own half even with that extra man advantage.

Derrygonnelly piled forward, probing patiently, and with 10 minutes of normal time remaining there were just three points – or a goal – between the sides.

However, it was Ederney who got another major score, Cassidy exchanging hand-passes with Paul McCusker, before rounding a defender to force the ball home from close range.

If the challengers had appeared nervous at the start of the game, missing early openings, that was nothing compared to the pressure heaping on them now as the New York Cup appeared tantalisingly within reach.

The holders had looked calm and composed from the outset, and they never panicked in possession as they tried to breach the Ederney defences, but they never really looked like getting even one of the goals that they needed.

The ending was so different from the opening exchanges, when the Harps hit the net with their opening score. Conall Jones and Eamon McHugh combined to send Micheal Glynn in but the finish was still something special as the corner-forward lashed a rasper past Snow.

Ederney, in contrast, saw Morris shoot wide, then McAuley miss a free before that Derrygonnelly goal – but as soon as they settled they showed their quality.

Much more, they showed their hunger and desire to end their club’s long wait to be Erne County senior champs.

Finbar Gillen epitomised their determination, lining out at centre half-back despite a serious jaw injury, but everywhere Ederney men were throwing themselves into tackles, making blocks, and winning break after break after break.

Most winners require a rub of the green too, and a stroke of luck contributed to Ederney drawing level, when a half-blocked McAuley effort was caught by Morris, who was fouled by Declan Cassidy.

McAuley coolly converted the spot-kick and the St Joseph’s dominated the rest of the half, with ferocious tackling all around, and their veterans contributed hugely. Snow was unfortunate to see a free come back off the right post, but soon nailed another one – and then supplied the assist, in the Derrygonnelly half, as McGrath launched a shot which soared over the Harps bar.

There’ll have been plenty launched over bars around Ederney last night, and for weeks and months to come, as the club celebrates ending its long wait, although the stomachs of everyone involved with the St Joseph’s might still have been churning hours after the long whistle.

Even when Paul McCusker clipped a classy score to give them a seven-point lead, 2-7 to 1-3, in the 56th minute there was still a feeling of disbelief, a sense that Derrygonnelly would still be capable of retaining ‘their’ trophy.

Glynn scored a free, then Conall Jones added his third, but fittingly Ederney had the final say, with a score that typified their performance on this historic evening.

Centre-forward McAuley blocked a Harps shot deep in his own defence, captain Declan McCusker carried the ball forward, and Morris swung over a lovely score.

Conall Jones had a low shot saved by Snow, as the agonising five minutes of added time stretched into eight, but Derrygonnelly lost another man to a red card, Eamon McHugh for apparent dissent, and Ederney finally achieved their famous victory.

Derrygonnelly Harps: J Kelly; A McKenna, T Daly, M Jones; L Jones, Gareth McGovern, G McGinley; Stephen McGullion (0-1 mark), R Jones; E McHugh, C Jones (0-3 frees), D Cassidy; M Glynn (1-2, 0-2 frees), Gavin McGovern G McKenna.

Substitutes: J Love for Gareth McGovern (41); K Cassidy for Gavin McGovern (41); Shane McGullion for G McKenna (52); S Gilroy for D Cassidy (59).

Red cards: Stephen McGullion (yellow 26, black 35); McHugh (68).

Ederney St Joseph’s: C Snow (0-2 frees); M Maguire, S McElrone, P Maguire; D McCusker, F Gillen, J Britton (0-1); M McGrath (0-1), C McGee; P McKervey, M McAuley (1-1, 1-0 penalty), P McCusker (0-1); L Harron, S Cassidy (1-1), R Morris (0-1).

Substitutes: E Cassidy for Britton (inj., 20); D Deazley for McKervey (57); E Ferris for Morris (63); O McGee for C McGee (65); Darren McCusker for S Cassidy (67).

Black card: P Maguire (60).

Referee: Niall Cullen (Erne Gaels).

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