The last time Erne Gaels and Derrygonnelly went head-to-head in a Senior Championship Final was back in 2016.
Ryan Lyons was the captain that day and on Sunday, he will again lead the Erne Gaels team out at Brewster Park but this time he’ll be hoping for a different result, as he recalls the ‘heartbreak’ of that defeat seven years ago.
“It probably took a few years to get over it to be fair,” adding that, as a 22-year-old back then “you probably thought it was the end of the world.”
Lyons scored a goal in that narrow 0-11 to 1-7 defeat back on the first Sunday in October 2016 and, unknown to him, his next final appearance would be in 2022 against Enniskillen Gaels. It was a final that served up more heartache as Erne Gaels failed to reach anywhere near their potential;
“There was probably a lot of disappointment through our own personal performance. Probably a bit of embarrassment as well, if I’m totally honest because we had such a good year last year and we expected so much more of ourselves on the biggest day and we didn’t perform,” says the gym operations manager.
“It’s something we’ve spoken about and something we used to a certain degree going into yesterday (Sunday against Enniskillen) but yesterday meant nothing unless we get over the line on Sunday.”
The celebrations of getting back to a county final were pretty muted amongst the players. It was clear Seamus Ryder’s side have learned from their defeats of the past;
“Last year where we nicked Kinawley in the semi final at the end, in Derrygonnelly, and maybe we were over-exuberant in them celebrations, I don’t know. We have a clear focus, we have a clear goal and that is not achieved yet, so it’s tunnel vision until next Sunday,” says the 30-year-old playmaker.
“Who is going to remember us beating Enniskillen in 20 years time in a county semi final? They’ll talk about county champions, yes, but not a semi-final winner.”
To achieve that goal they’re going to have to beat the most decorated team of the last decade in Fermanagh football. Lyons knows what they’re up against;
“Derrygonnelly are an experienced outfit, they’ve quality all over the pitch and that was on show on Saturday (against Kinawley). You don’t score 5-08 with poor players and I think they finished up the game with 3-02 in the last 10 minutes. We know with the quality they have they’ll punish you.
“Come Sunday, it’s going to be about an hour and a half to two hours of getting over the line.
“Nobody is under any illusion of how big a task it’s going to be. It’s going to be a massive, massive task, so just enjoy it, relish it,” urges Lyons.
As the town of Belleek turns black and gold this weekend in preparation for the big game on Sunday, Lyons is happily nestled away at home in Bellanleck where he now lives. It’s an escape which he welcomes in the lead up to a big match like this;
“I be glad of it on weeks like this here. Everywhere you go, you just want to get away from it,” but hastens to add, that “everyone in the club should be looking forward to it, it should be a huge occasion for everyone involved.
“Our jobs as players is to keep the feet on the ground, not get carried away with it and have a bit of tunnel vision leading into Sunday.”
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