AIB Ulster Club Intermediate Football Championship
Naomh Éanna 2-11 Mullahoran 1-10
From Paddy Tierney at the Athletic Grounds
FRANK Fitzsimons declared himself “the proudest man in Antrim” after guiding Naomh Éanna to an historic Ulster Club Intermediate Football Championship crown at the expense of Mullhoran at Armagh’s Athletic Grounds on Saturday night.
The Hightown outfit became the first Antrim side to secure Intermediate glory following their 2-11 to 1-10 victory over the Cavan champions.
Naomh Éanna, who defeated Doohamlet of Monaghan and Tyrone winners Tattyreagh to reach the provincial decider, led by three point at half-time thanks to Kristian Healy’s well-taken goal on 11 minutes.
However, Mullahoran battled back on the restart to level the game six minutes into the half while corner-forward Cormac O’Reilly crashed a shot off Paddy Flood’s crossbar midway through the second half.
Yet, cometh the hour, cometh the man, as Joe Maskey grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck as Naomh Éanna powered ahead in the closing stages.
Maskey, a county hurler with the Saffrons, bossed the midfield exchanges late on before linking up with Eoin Nagle to score his side’s second goal with a wonderful catch and finish on 51 minutes.
There was still time for further drama in the dying minutes and Flood was forced to concede a penalty by taking down Mullahoran substitute Shane Sheils close to goal. Having already been booked early in the second half, Flood’s black card meant he was sent off with centre half-forward Ruairi Scott moving into goals.
Scott couldn’t prevent Enda O’Reilly’s spot-kick from finding the net, but the Dreadnoughts didn’t have time to reduce the gap any further as Naomh Éanna deservedly held out for a memorable victory.
The Antrim and Ulster champions will face Spiddal of Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final in the New Year and Fitzsimons says his players will relish the challenge of representing the province in the All-Ireland series.
“They are a young team and they’re full of confidence and they have some great footballers,” said Fitzsimons.
“So I would be saying to them to have that belief that they can go on and win it.
“They are the best team in Ulster now and if you come out of Ulster you’re not bad. Look at what the Moy done last year in this competition.
“Going in with the lead at half-time, our boys knew they were capable of beating Mullahoran and credit to them, they were outstanding to the last man.
“I’m going to enjoy getting us ready for Spiddal now over the next few weeks. “They’ll enjoy this and then they’ll be representing their club, their county and Ulster.”