Canon Lonergan holds Fermanagh county final scoring record

It was the day Reverend Canon Patrick Lonergan seemed to have the power of the Holy Spirit in his boots.

It was the day Reverend Canon Patrick Lonergan seemed to have the power of the Holy Spirit in his boots.

For the Garrison priest hit three cracking goals, the last a “soccer volley” to bring the Fermanagh county title back to the Leitrim border village fifty years ago.

And as Belcoo try to stun hot favourites Roslea in the Fermanagh county final on Sunday, Canon Lonergan recalls a freezing September day fifty years ago when he became the only man to score a hat-trick in an Erne county final and is also the top scorer.

It was against Roslea and the Devenish full-forward was marked by the formidable Joe Pat Prunty.

His only regret in his excellent recall is that his beloved blue and white of Devenish is not in the final to make it 50 years to remember.

On Sunday September 8 1963 Devenish defeated a powerful Roslea side by 3-4 1-5 but the Garrison priest was not able to celebrate because he had to officiate at a bereavement in the parish.

“I was not even supposed to be on the team at all” he said as he looked out over Lough Melvin’s rocky shores from his home on a hill in Garrison.

“I was a selector and we had picked a team. We had Peter Maguire at corner forward and his father Jodie died the day before the match.

“It was too late to call the match off so I put my self back on at full-forward.

“I put myself on and I was 32 at that stage but I played until I was 44” he said.

“I had to rush back to receive the remains of Jody Maguire at 7pm in Garrison.

“I remember Pat O’Loughlin putting his arms around me congratulating me as it was the first time he had won a medal with Devenish.

Roslea were leading by 1-5 0-2 coming up to half-time when the Canon met a cross from team-mate Sean O’Loughlin with his fist to leave the score at Roslea 1-5 Devenish 1-2 at half-time.

Within 30 seconds of the restart the man from Carrickmacross county Monaghan had the ball in the net again.

“I was very pleased with the last goal as it was a volley any soccer man would have been proud of.

And even though the GAA had a ban on members playing soccer the sports mad Reverend also played soccer as a student with Maynooth.

Also in the 1950s Catholic priests were not allowed to play Gaelic football so the Canon lined out under the name Patrick Byrne, which was his mother’s surname.

And he also played hurling for Maynooth while his father Patrick Lonergan, from Tipperary Town introduced hurling to Monaghan and won Ulster hurling titles in 1923 and 1926

“I was very lucky as I came to Garrison first in 1960 and was here as a young curate until 1977 and also served in Ederney.

“I went to Donagh and Newtownbutler but came back in 1985 which co-incided with another golden period for Devenish who won several Fermanagh league and championships.

“My heart and soul has been in Devenish who won six in row titles League titles and five senior championships.

“My only regret is that Devenish hit 19 wides against Teemore this year and were put out of the championship.

“It would have been a great 50th Anniversary if we had managed to win this year’s Fermanagh championship.

Still a true Blue after more than 50 years!