THE footballers of Burt wrote a commendable chapter of history on Sunday in adding the Junior A football championship trophy to the hurling title they picked up last month.
Naomh Padraig, Lifford 1-3
Two second half goals from Enda McDermott, which were carbon copies of one another, were enough to seal the title against a disappointing Naomh Padraig from Lifford. Such a double is not unique, as Aodh Ruadh managed the same feat away back in 1929 but such details will matter little to the border town in a contest that escalated in terms of its excitement. For the Burt side managed by Ronan McLaughlin, it’s a first championship win in Donegal, although exactly 80 years ago they won the Derry equivalent.
Two points apiece were all that were posted a frenetic first half and at the interval it was joked what Pat Spillane, Joe Brolly and Colm O’Rourke might’ve made of the fare on display. Naomh Padraig’s Gary McGirr, who is one of the best kickers of the placed ball in the county, scored two excellent efforts from underneath the shadow of the O’Donnell Park stand. At the other end, Joe Boyle’s two long rangers levelled matters up but the same player was responsible for four first half wides.
Burt defended in numbers but barring a handful of early concessions, were efficient enough in the tackle to avoid giving McGirr further opportunities to showcase his talents. The likes of Lornie Crossan at full-forward for Naomh Padraig, so often the spearhead of his side’s offensive actions, was simply crowded out. Lifford failed to score a single point from play.
As well as their defensive diligence, though, Burt turned their missed opportunities into scores after the break. Although the first few minutes of the second half were still as claustrophobic as the first, when McDermott blasted inches wide from a tight angle when corner-back Mark McNulty was beaten by the bounce from Niall Campbell’s ball in there were the first indications of a stretch.
McDermott scored a rare left-footed point and Boyle’s third point was crisply struck as his boots were chalked at the 45-metre line to manufacture a 0-4 to 0-2 lead before the contest finally sprung to life. Boyle’s willingness to take anything on meant some of his attempts at goal could be best defined as ambitious but from one such punt that fizzled through the air but was dropping short, McDermott swung a fist to score the game’s opening goal and a 1-4 to 0-2 cushion.
Even though 21 minutes remained, a five-point lead in front of an excitable crowd seemed like enough, considering Naomh Padraig hadn’t bothered an umpire in 42 minutes of play. But from the very next attack, Naomh Padraig managed to force their way back into the fray when Shane Gallagher slapped home a ball across from Paul Lynch, although Burt’s queries of square ball seemed to carry some justification.
As the temperature level continued to rise, a wonderful point from Paul McHugh at the intersection of the 13-metre line and the sideline gave Burt’s support reason to cheer. Those roars climbed further in decibels when McDermott, again from a free from Boyle, punched past Shaun McBrearty in the Naomh Padraig goal for Burt’s second goal nine minutes from time.
That left the score 2-5 to 1-2 although a Kevin McBrearty free gave Naomh Padraig another point but their attacks continually ran into a red and green wall. Invariably, tempers frayed the later the game went on and Naomh Padraig substitute Brian Breslin was given a second yellow for some afters with Seamus O’Donnell as stoppage time began. Burt’s numerical advantage was short-lived all the same, as Eamon Reddin was given a straight red for pushing Lynch to the floor.
However, amid the melee there was still time for a thing of beauty. From a breakaway in the closing seconds, McHugh once more made his way down the right and into acres of free space with Naomh Padraig committed upfield. The wing-back finished perfectly into the top corner for a fine goal, which was the perfect cheery on top of Burt’s splendid day.
Presidential candidate Dana Rosemary Scallon could be seen canvasing at O’Donnell Park as the crowd made their way out afterwards and Burt supporters certainly enjoyed a final that started slowly but soon possessed all kinds of everything.
Burt: Stephen Gallagher; Brendan Hannigan, Paul O’Brien, Mark McGavigan; Paul McHugh (1-1), M Donaghey, Seamus O’Donnell; Patrick McDermott, Eamon Reddin; Jonathan Downey, Niall Campbell, Rory Grant; Ciaran Dowds, Jospeh Boyle (0-3, 1f), Enda McDermott (2-1). Subs: Kevin McDermott for Grant (half-time), Michael McCann for Downey (56).
Naomh Padraig, Lifford: Shaun McBrearty; Marty McHugh, Patrick McNamee, Mark McNulty; Darren Gillespie, Gary McGirr (0-2, 2f), Kevin McBrearty (0-1, 1f); Michael Ferry, Conor Catterson; Paul Given, Shane Gallagher (1-0), Shane Meehan; Paul Lynch, Lornie Crossan, Emmet Catterson. Subs., Brian Breslin for E Catterson 40; Kevin Daly for S Gallagher 56.
Referee: Michael McShane
Man of the match
All the better players were in the green and red of Burt and Enda McDermott two goals were pivotal scores. Eamon Reddin and Patrick McDermott was strong around the middle of the field ahead of an organised defence. But for two pieces of magic, a goal and a point, 19-year-old Paul McHugh wins the award.
Michael McShane certainly had his hands full, certainly the longer the game went on. Brian Breslin’s second yellow was clear cut although Eamon Reddin might feel a little aggrieved at his straight red, which will rule him out of the Ulster championship opener.
With two goals and a point on what was, for two thirds at least, a reasonably tight game Enda McDermott’s use of the fist swung things in favour of Burt. Naomh Padriag were effectively still in the game until the second of his goals.