Derrygonnelly created a special slice of Harps history on Sunday as they secured the club’s first ever five-in-a-row of county titles.
They were fought pretty much all the way by a dogged Roslea side in a sodden Brewster Park, but there was no doubting the Purple and Gold were full value for this famous victory, four points the margin between them at the end.
Brendan Rasdale’s is Derrygonnelly’s joint manager alongside Sean Flanagan and he was walking on air after the final whistle.
“You always start with relief, and very quickly you go to joy. I’m absolutely delighted. I’m delighted for the group and I think we made a great statement today about good toughness, good ability to win games that are in the melting pot and a good mentality to make the right decisions, particularly those couple of scores we got at the right times. They came from good decision making. I think we ticked a lot of boxes today.
It’s Rasdale’s second title as manager and he admitted this one was just a touch more gratifying than last year’s success.
“It’s probably the sweeter, not because of the five-in-a-row thing, but because the we had to show good stuff as a wider group, not just 15 or 18 lads over the whole year.
“It’s been one of those seasons where we’ve had to draw on the resources of the whole group and I think a lot of guys contributed very well this year. I’m very happy for them.”
The emotion of the victory was enhanced for coming against one of Rasdale’s heroes and mentors.
“There is a wee emotional element in it for me. Of all the people who have influenced me as a coach at school, it’s Peter [McGinnity]. When I came to St Michael’s I learned off him. We ended up together with development squads, so Peter has influenced me a lot.
“People can say this, that and the other, but Roslea are one of the big beasts of Fermanagh football. You would have serious respect for their know-how, and when you win a championship, and you’ve beaten Roslea, you know you’ve really won that county championship.”
There was also emotion in the knowledge that few would have relished this five-in-a-row achievement more than Damian McGovern, a dedicated Harps stalwart who tragically lost his life just days before Derrygonnelly won that first title in this run back in 2015.
“I have a very clear view on Damian McGovern and Damian McGovern’s life, and that it’s one thing I take with me a lot every day,” said Rasdale. “You make the best of every day, because you just don’t know. I am delighted that his cub played and his other cub was unlucky not to come on and play today too. I’m delighted for his son Gavin and I’m delighted for his family. You get wee things that guide you through life and when I think of Damian, I always think, ‘Do you your best in this day.’”
Derrygonnelly will savour this win, but they are back out in league semi-final action this weekend against Enniskillen Gaels. After that they will be looking to get their Ulster club campaign off to a positive start against the Antrim champions who will be come from Cargin, Portglenone or Lámh Dhearg. Rasdale feels Derrygonnelly are going into the provincial series in a better frame of mind than last year.
“We have good know-how in the group and that’s useful in Ulster. When I think back to the very first time we went into the Ulster club in 2015 against Slaughtneil, we’re a very different team from then. We have a much better understanding of how to go about it.
“I felt last year we went into the Ulster club with a lot of expectation on us, which wasn’t that comfortable with. I think we’re going in this year with a bit less of that euphoria about us. The Cavan Gaels games in 2017 fed into a bit what happened in 2018. I think we’re going in a lot more solid this year and I feel a lot more comfortable with that.
“We didn’t let this become about the five-in-a-row thing. It was always about the next game. We’ve become a good one-game-at-a-time team and Enniskillen Gaels is my next worry to be blunt about it, but we’ll give Ulster a go and we’ve good know-how and that might stand us in good stead.”
Posted: 11:37 am October 4, 2019