Landmark Celtic Challenge win for Dunne’s Under 17s

Fermanagh 1-19
Leitrim 0-4

On a bumper weekend for Fermanagh hurling, Cyril Dunne’s Under 17s made history of their own on Saturday, trouncing Leitrim 1-19 to 0-04 to secure the county’s first Celtic Challenge trophy.

Ballyshannon played host to part one of a delightful doubleheader and it couldn’t have got off to a better start – in more ways than one.


Dan O’Connor’s three points without reply, including a sublime sideline cut from 35 yards, set the tone early. And the half-time score (0-8 to 0-0) spoke of a shellshocked Leitrim after Matthew Ferguson (1pt), James Tierney (3pts) and O’Connor added.

The Wild Rose county offered a belated response in the second half, but a Tierney goal after 44 minutes stifled any notion of a comeback. Instead, Dunne’s charges finished strong, delivering the first of two trophy celebrations – with the seniors lifting the Lory Meagher at Croke Park on Sunday.

“It was unreal. The seniors take great interest in the minors, and it was great for us to win on Saturday because they were right behind us and it’s all just fantastic for Fermanagh hurling,” recalled Dunne.

“We talked about getting off to a good start because it was imperative we didn’t let Leitrim get on the front foot, and we were superb all over the field. Leitrim didn’t know what hit them in the first ten minutes.

“It was a great team performance, they all played out of their skins and it’s fantastic for all the youngsters coming through. From the eight youth clubs that we have, they now see a team and panel that they can aspire to be on and have a chance of realistically winning something.”

Joe McGoldrick received the award for ‘fairest and best player’ after an energetic midfield performance, while Dunne noted “every man from one to 23 done well”.

The formidable half-back line of Eoghan McManus, Ronan Brennan, and Oisin Morris dominated the aerial battles in the first 20 minutes. Half-forward’s James Tierney – who finished with an impressive 1-7 from play – Dan O’Connor and Aodhan Maguire, drew praise for their tireless work.


And uniquely, there were also six U15s in Dunne’s squad and the county had to get a special dispensation from Croke Park to allow them to play at U17.

Dunne was delighted to see them get a taste of the success too, after helping Fermanagh over the line.
“They played really well when they came on and they’ve another two years left, so the confidence that’ll be dripping out of them is great,” said Dunne.

“That’ll rub off on the other lads around their age that are stepping into the Celtic Challenge next year, so hopefully it’ll have a roll-on effect.”

Many of the U17s, including manager Dunne, made the trip to Dublin on Sunday.

Fourteen of the current senior squad have come through the Celtic Challenge over the past seven years. Dunne, along with Brian Johnston, managed Luca McCusker, Tom Keenan, Jimmy Tormey and others to the county’s last Celtic Challenge final, which they lost by a point.

That was a driving factor for Saturday’s success and the hope now, says Dunne, is that after this taste of success, there will be more to come.

“They lost their final by a point, and I think that stuck with our boys. It was there to win but you’ve got to go and win it.

“It’s a great achievement, I haven’t stopped smiling since Saturday and I think I’ll keep smiling for the next six months, we’re so proud of the bunch of fellas.

“Everything we asked of them this year they’ve came up spades and it’s a testament to the clubs, to the parents and to the players themselves that they got to a final and then performed.

“A lot of children freeze when they get to a final, but they didn’t, they were on it from the moment we arrived in Ballyshannon.”

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