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Fitzsimons praises St Enda's heroes after their historic Ulster coup

St Enda's 2-11 Mullahoran 1-10

Glory day: St Enda’s captain James McAuley hoists trophy
Glory day: St Enda’s captain James McAuley hoists trophy
John Campbell

By John Campbell

In the not too distant past, if St Enda's had managed to win a game in the Antrim League it was a cause for modest celebration.

Imagine, then, the mood today as the 2018 stocktaking throws up Antrim and Ulster intermediate football titles as well as a solid playing platform from which further success can emanate.

Manager Frank Fitzsimons is not normally lost for words but after his team's dismantling of warm favourites Mullahoran in this cracking provincial decider emotion almost but not quite got the better of him.

"I can't speak highly enough of these lads," gushed the former Antrim boss.

"They deserve every credit. Go back a few months and we were unknown, today it's upwards and onwards into the All-Ireland semi-finals. You can't ask for better than that."

"I think this is a great lift for Antrim football. I'm an Antrim man at heart and to lead a club from the county to an Ulster title - well, it gets no better than that from my perspective. I am so proud of the boys, I really am."

"The hope is now that they can take things on from here. We are learning all the time and I would just love to see this club make a name for themselves on the All-Ireland stage.

"They have the chance to do Antrim and Ulster proud going forward and I believe that this is a challenge they will relish because they now have self-belief and a higher level of skill."

If St Enda's ascent to the Ulster throne represents a significant milestone of achievement in the club's history, it could be followed by others.

For now, though, the side can bask in the kind off progress which could yet lead them to the penthouse of All-Ireland attainment.

Such a notion might have smacked of a flight of fancy when Mullahoran hauled themselves back on level terms at 1-5 to 0-8 with five minutes of the second half gone at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night but little did they know then but they had played their final ace.

Kristian Healy's first half goal had injected St Enda's with the belief and composure that all would-be champions require but it was when Joe Maskey subsequently reigned supreme at midfield, Odhran Eastwood excelled as creator and finisher and the Healys, Kristian and Peter, remained turbocharged throughout that Mullahoran were brought to their knees.

The Cavan side battled hard, retained their composure for the most part but they were unable to match their fired-up opponents for hunger and will-power as the match ebbed to a close.

Maskey's brilliantly-taken 51sth minute goal, the opportunism of Eoin Nagle and the imposing authority of skipper James McAuley proved crucial in steering St Enda's through the closing phase of a contest that throbbed throughout.

McAuley provided inspirational leadership throughout and his example was followed by that of his colleagues as they showed utter determination in entering the history books in considerable style.

Enda O'Reilly, who pocketed six points in all in showcasing his accuracy, swept home an injury-time penalty for Mullahoran with forward Ruairi Scott deputising for the banished Paddy Flood in goal but by then the St Enda's ribbons were already on the trophy for the very first time.

St Enda's: P Flood; K Jennings, M McNamee, D McNulty; C Lyttle 0-1, J McAuley, C McAuley; R Kennedy, J Maskey 1-0; P Healy, R Scott 0-2, K Healy 1-1; E Gibson, O Eastwood 0-4 (3f), E Nagle 0-3. Subs: C O'Neill for Kennedy (26), D Gault for Gibson (61).

Mullahoran: S Briody; C Mussi 0-1, T McGahern, Cian O'Reilly; P Brady, M Hynes, Colm O'Reilly 0-1; K Brady, P Galligan 0-1; R Lynch, E O'Reilly 0-6 (5f), S McKeogh 0-1; G Brady, P Brady, Cormac O'Reilly. Subs: S Shiels for Galligan (51), D Smith for Colm O'Reilly (54), B McArdle for McKeogh (55).

Referee: Dan Mullan (Derry).

Belfast Telegraph


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