Fermanagh Herald 13/11/2002
DERRYGONNELLY SECURE A WIN TO REMEMBER
It ended in semi-darkness, the town lights of Enniskillen winking in the November dusk, but for Derrygonnelly it was one of the brightest days in their history.
They had won the senior league title for just the second time and they had done so with a quite remarkable performance, one that they will relish and recount, again and again in the years ahead.
They overcame the handicap of playing over 50 minutes of normal time with 14 players, midfielder Sean Flanagan being dismissed just eight minutes into the contest. By that stage they had slipped three points in arrears and they were clearly in the deepest of trouble with opponents Newtownbutler, for once looking an enterprising outfit up front.
But Newtown were unable to drive home their advantage and though they were to hold the lead until the closing seconds of the 60 minutes, there could be no disputing the fact that it was the depleted Derrygonnelly team who were delivering the better brand of football.
The Harps thoroughly deserved to haul themselves level to push the game into extra time and the impetus was now firmly with them as they faced into the additional 30 minutes. For the first time they moved into the driving seat with a pointed free from Kevin McGrath and they were not to be headed thereafter.
Not that they were in anyway secure, for Newtown made a determined effort to salvage something but at the finish the title had gone to the right team.
Derrygonnelly produced a resolute performance in the face of the most difficult of circumstances. They displayed enormous character and in a handful of sterling individual contributions, backed up by a splendid team effort they completed the season on a rousing and triumphant note.
Little wonder that they were euphoric at the end for they had emerged winners against all the odds.
As for Newtownbutler, they will have trooped away, disconsolate after yet another catastrophically limp performance.
For several years now they have been regarded as the side who were the heir apparents to the Enniskillen throne. But they have produced nothing of real consequence. It has been all shape and no substance. Their bad days have swamped those, which at their kindest, have been merely promising.
Derrygonnelly are certainly a hoodoo side for them but last Saturday they had a wonderful opportunity to lay that particular ghost to rest. They had an excellent start and then saw the opposition reduced to 14, but they just couldn't take advantage.
They might have squeezed out a win. Being caught at the last gasp is always an acute disappointment and a case of deep frustration.
Yet there were few present inside Brewster Park last Saturday who didn't believe that gutsy Derrygonnelly deserved to send the game into the extra 30 minutes. And in that extra spell there was no question as to who was essentially running the show. Once they hit the front, it was odds on for a Harps success, though Newtown did work manfully to rescue the situation.
At the end, though, they could have no complaint about finishing another year empty handed. Far too many of their players simply didn't come up to the mark when the occasion demanded.
It was all so different in the early exchanges of the contest as Newtown opened with a surprising sense of verve and vim that saw them collect two points from play from Glen Monaghan and Raymond Johnson inside the initial 90 seconds and a third was added when Michael McDaid knocked over in the fifth minute after Brendan McBrien had chased down a ball that looked to have gone out of bounds.
The departure of Harps midfielder Sean Flanagan was the next item and when Colm Monaghan landed a long -distance free, the game was very definitely swinging in Newtown's favour. There were momentary appearances that the exchanges might sink into mayhem but common sense prevailed and steadily, Derrygonnelly settled themselves into the match.
They were to do surprisingly well to bring themselves to an interval position, which saw them a mere two points adrift, a situation that looked highly unlikely some 20 minutes earlier.
Their opening two scores had been supplied by Garrett Greene with a precise 45 and an accurate free from Kevin Cassidy and Kevin McGrath had closed the gap to one with another placed kick just on 30 minutes.
Newtown,who had been labouring, did have an immediate response with a fine point from Michael McDaid who was to be one of their best players throughout, but this was a disappointing half-time position for them to hold, given the circumstances.
That, however, seemed to be of no consequence in the early minutes after the resumption as the First Fermanagh's strode through for the first two points, Martin McDaid and Colm Monaghan the marksmen. The game was back on track with Newtown holding a four-point lead.
But that was the best that they were to manage and basically it was all downhill for them after that. Derrygonnelly drew renewed encouragement from two splendid Kevin Cassidy points, one from play the other from a free, both from angled positions on the right wing. No real suggestion of an ultimate victory but they were hanging in and a feeble Newtown were giving no indication that they were capable of running away with the game.
Paul Fitzpatrick who was one of the stronger Newtown performers fired over an eighth point for the team to temporarily lift the pressure but again the First Fermanagh's lacked the ability to build on that.
Ten minutes from time and it was back down to a two-point game as Martin Greene hammered over an inspirational point for the Harps and there was now no doubt about it. This was going down to the wire.
Newtown had by now lost composure, simply a question of holding on, but Derrygonnelly had the adrenaline flowing and they foraged forward with increasing conviction. Daniel Ward, a lively substitution, skipped in for a point from the right wing and in a final desperate raid came the equaliser.
An excellent score, suitable for the occasion, with Kevin McGrath and Paddy McKenna combining to send Garrett Greene through.
Newtown were shattered and it showed in their play throughout the remaining 30 minutes. Play had been delayed resuming, due to some nonsense about the eligibility of the dismissed Flanagan.
But once that was got out of the way, Derrygonnelly got about the business of winning the game and they hit early points from Kevin McGrath and Kevin Cassidy to leave Newtown chasing the game for a change.
They led by a point at the interval, Colm Monaghan having replied with a successful free, and there was to be no score in the second period until a late Harps breakaway raid yielded an insurance point from Rory Dundas.
Prior to that their goalkeeper Dermot Feely had made an excellent stop from Colm Courtney and there had also been a number of instances of committed blocking.
The Derrygonnelly dander was up and there was no way they were going to go down in this one.
Shane Wilson; Paul Johnson; Barry Mc Loughlin; Shane McGorman; Paul Fitzpatrick; Clive Fitzpatrick; Shane Leonard; Colm Courtney and Raymond Johnson; Glen Monaghan; Michael McDaid; Martin McDaid; Brendan McBrien; Brian McCaffery and Colm Monaghan. Subs: Ryan Carson; Brian Courtney; Finbarr O'Keefe; James Mullarkey and Oliver Donegan.
Dermot Feely; Declan Cassidy; Stephen Burns; Peter Jones; Colm Carroll; Patrick McKenna; Roger McGovern; Garrett Greene and Sean Flanagan; Niall Gilleece; Martin Greene; Martin Hamilton; Paul Ward; Kevin Cassidy and Kevin McGrath. Subs: Daniel Ward; Rory Dundas; Dermot Carroll and Brendan Rasdale.
Scorers: Derrygonnelly- Kevin Cassidy (0-4) Kevin McGrath (0-2) Garrett Greene (0-2), Martin Greene, Daniel Ward, and Rory Dundas (0-1)each.
Newtownbutler - Michael McDaid and Colm Monaghan (0-3) each; Glen Monaghan, Paul Fitzpatrick and Raymond Johnson (0-1) each.
Referee: Brendan Murphy, Irvinestown.