What's seldom is wonderful! Brexit was off the agenda in Pettigo at the weekend as they held a party on Sunday night to celebrate their Junior B Championship success, a first since 1953.
“Hunger is a great sauce when the chips are down,” said midfielder, Kieran McGee, in a text, thanking us for our coverage of the game on Sunday in Tirconaill Park, Donegal Town.
With most of the attention on the senior final in MacCumhaill Park, it was fitting that the Pettigo-Red Hugh’s replay also got some coverage. And the replay was full of drama and, unfortunately, a disturbing melee near the end.
Pettigo took their time to get going and over the hour they hit 13 wides, some of them poor efforts. You wouldn’t have given much for their chances at half-time as they trailed by 2-5 to 0-5.
Even when they came out and hit the first point of the second half, it was cancelled by a Red Hugh’s score, but they then found their way led from the front by captain Paul Robinson, who shouldn’t have been on the field, as he had a gash (which needed 10 stitches) after a clash of heads before the break, but nothing was going to keep him from taking the cup back to Pettigo.
They came so near last year, losing out in the final, but they did win a Division Five league title and club chairman, Colin McFarland, feels that was important.
“We gave away two bad goals in last year’s final, but the boys were really up for it this year. We knew it would be tough in Division Four of the league but the plan from the start was to target the championship.”
A new manager, Conor Daly from Trillick, came on board and he gave the panel a new impetus.
“The words from Conor at half-time in the dressing room made a huge difference. He has a great way with words and he told them that they had to make it happen in the second half. His words gave them great belief and even though they hit three wides, there was a determination shown that this was going to be their day.
“We have been training two years to win this cup,” says McFarland, who has been togging out making up the numbers with Pauric Colton.
“The commitment given by the players has been huge. You had the likes of Adam McBarron coming up from college in Cork,” said the chairman, who said the homecoming they received in Pettigo on Sunday evening was bigger than Donegal winning an Ulster title.
There was some party in the village and the chairman feels that the future for the club is bright with another four young fellas qualifying next year while most of the panel have plenty left in the tank.
Asked about captain Sean Robinson's display despite picking up a gash above his eyebrow, McFarland said: “At half-time we told him that he would have to get stitches. But he said, don’t you worry about the stitches; get that patched up; I’m going on again.
“He is an unbelievable player and he should get a look-in at county level,” said Colin.
What made Sunday really special was that it seemed as if all of Pettigo were in Tirconaill Park for the game. Getting to the final meant a lot to them and winning it will be a huge boost to the club.
Back in 1953 one of the main names on the team sheet was McGrath and present for the win on Sunday was Laurence McGrath, home from New York to support his team. The Pettigo chairman praised McGrath for his support for the team, sponsoring the after-match meal in the Abbey Hotel and recently also supplying a new team kit for the club.
There will be another chance for celebration when the medals are being handed out later in the year and I’m sure they will celebrate that occasion with their new local heroes in the same style.