St. Enda’s one step from Ulster glory

Ulster Intermediate Club football championship final

St. Enda’s Antrim v Mullahoran Cavan

5-00 Athletic Grounds Armagh

St. Enda’s Antrim are one step away from Ulster glory as they attempt to put the icing on a truly remarkable 2018 season. Standing in their way is the considerable obstacle of Mullahoran, Cavan but it is an obstacle the Glengormley side are quite capable of overcoming.

The journey began for the men from the Hightown Road way back in April when they made their debut in division 1 of the ACFL having gained promotion the season before from division 2. Under the management of former Antrim supremo Frank Fitzsimmons and his assistants, Pat Hughes and Thomas McNulty they travelled to Ahoghill and recorded a convincing win over the home side.

Undoubtedly playing division 1 football was a big plus in the development of what was largely a young and inexperienced side but it was clear from early in the season that St. Enda’s were more than capable of holding their own in the top division.

They lost their next two games by a single point, away to Rossa and then to eventual league winners, Kickham’s Creggan and then in early May they recorded a fine victory over Erin’s own, Cargin which must have been a major boost to their confidence.

Results continued on the positive and even in defeat St. Enda’s were turning in strong performances and the went on to finish in mid table at the end of their first division 1 campaign for quite a number of years.

Come championship time and it was time for the Glengormley side to put an unenviable record to bed. St. Enda’s had never won a football championship at Senior level and as the Antrim Intermediate championship kicked off they were determined to put matters right.

They began their campaign with a win over St. Paul’s and went on to defeat Davitt’s, Moneyglass and a strong Gort na Mona side in the final to collect their first championship title. Determined not to rest on their laurels however they now set their targets even higher as they entered the Ulster Intermediate championship for the first time.

They were drawn against Doohamlet O’Neill’s the Monaghan champions in the quarter-final at Corrigan Park and in front of a big ‘Home’ support they turned in another strong performance to overcome the challenge of the Monaghan men.

Despite eventually winning 2-15 to 3-4 and dominating for long periods of the game there would have been some concerns by the fact that they had conceded three goals in the process, never the less it was a fine attacking performance with Kristian Healey and Ruairi Scott getting the all-important goals.

Tattyreagh of Tyrone were St. Enda’s opponents in the semi-final at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh and the Tyrone men came to Armagh with a considerable reputation having beaten St. Peter’s of Lurgan at the same venue in the quarter-final.

In a tight contest the Hightown side  seized the initiative after a frantic opening few minutes, Naomh Éanna led at half time, but a second-half goal from James Darcy saw the Tyrone champions wrestle back the lead and as the game entered the closing stages it was all square and still anybody’s.

A black card for an in-form Ethan Gibson saw Frank Fitzsimons scramble for a replacement, and Michael Morgan was summoned from the bench.

Inspired substitution or a lucky stroke?, make your own minds up but Morgan became the St. Enda’s hero as he fired over the last two points of an enthralling contest to send his side through to a final meeting with Mullahoran.

Cavan champions Mullahoran had made a little bit of history at the same venue and on the same day when they defeated Derry champions Banagher in the other semi-final. The sides couldn’t be separated after two periods of extra time before Mullahoran won the first ever free kick shoot-out in Ulster football to emerge victorious.

We have already looked at Mullahoran in an earlier article and they are likely to provide St. Enda’s with a stiff challenge on Saturday evening but it is challenge that the Antrim champions will relish and embrace.

The Healey brothers Kristian and Peter are likely to line out in the St. Enda’s attack.

The Hightown Road outfit are a fine side laced with players who are fast, skilful and extremely fit and they have displayed an insatiable appetite and work rate that has seen them produce the goods when the chips were down and they might well have to call on those reserves of character again on Saturday.

The team is likely to line out along similar lines as in the last two games and Fitzsimmons has been on record on emphasising the importance of the panel as well as the starting 15. Paddy Flood will line out in goals and the former Antrim keeper’s experience will be vital and in front of him Michael McNamee at full-back and captain Joe McAuley at centre-half have been ever present in an attack minded defence.

County hurler, Joe Maskey has emerged as a serious mid-fielder as the season has progressed where is likely to be partnered by the experienced Phillip Curran. It’s in attack where St. Enda’s can do the damage that should see them take the Ulster title with Odhran Eastwood, Eoin Nagle, Ruairi Scott and the Healey brothers, Peter and Kristian all capable of producing the fire power to get them over the line while Michael Morgan will be ready to add that little bit extra if called upon.

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