Naomh Éanna’s Frank Fitzsimmons….
“We were only here to get them across the line. The talent was there, we just steered them”
By Brendan McTaggart
As James McAuley lifted the Intermediate trophy on the Corrigan Park pitch, the roar erupted with the Naomh Éanna support crowded around the victors. The Hightown Road side for the last three years have been knocking on the door of claiming the Intermediate championship and on Saturday afternoon they finally made the breakthrough.
Under the tutelage of former Antrim manager and Lámhh Dhearg native Frank Fitzsimmons, Naomh Éanna have performed above expectations in Division One, comfortably holding onto their status in the top division and Fitzsimmons told us what his initial thoughts on the win were: “It’s massive for the Naomh Éanna club. It’s their first senior trophy they won in any competition, that’s junior, intermediate and senior. You can see how hungry they are from the celebrations of the boys.
“It’s the first time I’ve taken a club from outside of my own from the start of the year and I didn’t know what to expect. It was totally different and a breath of fresh air. All them lads are super, first class.”
Fitzsimmons is widely regarded as one of the best coaches within the county and while he rightly was a proud man on Saturday afternoon, the Lámh Dhearg native paid tribute to the coaches involved with the Naomh Éanna men in recent times: “All that has a lot to do with the coaches that took them before us. We’ve just brought them across the line this year. Decky Steele last year, Paul McToal, Geard McNulty and Thomas McNulty. All we done, we were only here to get them across the line. The talent was there, we just steered them.”
The Gorts threw everything at Naomh Éanna in the second half and pegged the Hightown Road side back to two points. Fitzsimmons men steadied the ship and hit four of the next five points to regain control. The Naomh Éanna manager added: “Listen, I know Sean McKenna as well as I know anyone and I expected nothing other than a well organised team and they were well organised. They’re a good side and you’ll see that next weekend, they’re fighting for Division One next week.
“We knew it was going to be tough. They were as confident as we were probably coming into the match. There was a wee bit of nerves at times there but every time they got a score we went up and reacted, getting a point or two after.
“The first game against St Paul’s prepared us for this match today. They were dogged. They were playing senior championship last year and for us to get over them was massive. Davitt’s obviously but Moneyglass was another big match last week, it was another massive test.”
With an Ulster campaign to look forward to now, Fitzsimmons concluded: “We’ll enjoy this now but they have to realise now that in two week’s time we’ll be back out here against the Monaghan champions and that’s really where I want to be. That’s the sort of football you want to be playing at. You’re representing your club, you’re representing your county so their feet will be on the ground by Tuesday night.”
Sean McKenna, Gort na Mona…..
“We’ve had a good year but we can still make it a brilliant year”
By Brendan McTaggart
Gort na Mona might have been beaten in Saturday’s Intermediate final, but even in defeat they won. How the Turf Lodge side conducted themselves at the full time whistle, to call it admirable just doesn’t seem like enough. Pained by the emotions that only defeat in a championship final can bring, Sean McKenna’s side stood lined either side of the gate at Corrigan Park waiting. A guard of honour formed for the victorious Naomh Éanna men and in turn reinforcing their class as a club.
To a man, they stood proud. Heads bowed but their spirit wasn’t broken, the Gorts have it in spades. An undeniably huge amount of team spirit. Their manager was immensely proud of his side after the match when we spoke with him at the full time whistle. Despite trailing by three at half time and five shortly after, the Gorts showed their spirit and character by pegging the Hightown Road side back to two points midway through the second half, McKenna told us that he felt his side were right in the game but admitted the better team won on the day: “Listen they’re a good side. You can’t take anything away from those lads, they just had a wee bit more quality football about them when they began to run the ball at us. Better than any other team we’ve played this year.”
During their second wind in the second half, the Gorts had more chances to eat into the Naomh Éanna lead and although disappointed, McKenna quickly turned his focus to their next match: “On another day you know, Diesel’s (Darren Boyd) and Dermy (Dermot McVeigh), them kicks are going over the bar but today it just didn’t. Look we have no complaints. We had a great run and we’ve had a good year but we can still make it a brilliant year by going out next week and beating Moneyglass and getting promoted. That won’t be an easy task, Moneyglass will lay down for no one.”
The Gorts had beaten fellow promotion hopefuls enroute to the final, putting in the performance of the championship in the preliminary round against Aldergrove before accounting for Dunloy and All Saints in closer contests. McKenna said Saturday’s final was a step too far for his side: “We’ve had three excruciating championship matches up until now and I think it (the final) was just too much.
“There’s no shame in getting beat by that Naomh Éanna team out there today. We tried everything but we came up short.”
McKenna’s side have been on a roll at the right end of the season. Saturday’s defeat was their first since the end of July against Tír na nÓg but the Turf Lodge men showed their character and are now one win away from promotion: “We have to pick ourselves up quick. We can’t sit and feel sorry for ourselves for a week, we’ve a big match against Moneyglass next Saturday and if we win that we’re in Division One.
“From Tír na nÓg beat us, we said we have seven or eight championship finals in front of us to the end of the season and we had to pick ourselves up.”