BY RYAN FERRY IN OMAGH
All roads led to Healy Park on Sunday as gaels from all over Donegal united to support Glenswilly on their mission to win the Seamus McFerran cup.
Glenswilly people flocked to Omagh hoping for the greatest day in their club’s history. There wasn’t a man, woman or child left in the community as everyone headed down the road in their green and gold colours.
“There won’t be a purdie boiled in the whole of Glenswilly today,” said one supporter to another, as they took to their seats in Healy Park.
The Glenswilly supporters were there in their hordes to welcome their heroes to the field. A tremendous roar erupted, as James Pat McDaid led his team out.
The tension filled the ground as we awaited the throw-in. Glenswilly, the ‘wee club’ in the senior Ulster club final. Who would have thought it?
As Padraig Hughes got the game underway, Caolan Kelly made a dart for his defence to take up his usual position of sweeper for the team.
“There we go, typical Donegal football, “ roared a man with a broad Derry brogue.
Within seconds, Michael Murphy had the ball in the back of the Ballinderry net.
“Yeah, Murphy scoring goals, that’s pretty typical of Donegal football, alright!,” quipped a Glenswilly supporter.
The Glenswilly fans were on their feet. They got the perfect start they craved. Murphy was causing havoc. ‘The Manchild’, as Joe Brolly so eloquently nicknamed him, added a ‘45’ to his tally, as Glenswilly put four points between the sides.
However, Ballinderry Shamrocks are one of the most revered club teams in the land. They cruised to the Ulster final, and now they were sitting at the top table, they weren’t just going to lie down.
They came back into the game and started to land some beautiful points. This wasn’t a meaningless league game at Foxhall, this was the Ulster final and Glenswilly were in a battle.
Glenswilly’s goal had been fortuitous, and there was certainly a bit of luck to Ballinderry’s goal too. Michael McIver, son of former Donegal manager, Brian McIver, opportunitsly palmed the ball over Philip O’Donnell.
The Glenswilly supporters were stunned. But their maverick manager Gary McDaid did not flinch. Kitted out in his famous shorts, and with his shirt collar up, Cantona-esque, the Glenswilly manager did not panic.
Glenswilly went back in search of a point, but Ciaran Bonner hit the post. The Shamrocks collected the rebound, and went up the field, and scored a point to move four points ahead. Such small margins can make the biggest of differences at times.
At half-time, the Glenswilly folk were cautious. “They haven’t played anything yet,” said one. “We’re a second half team,” said another.
“Glenswilly may have only 300 or 400 houses, but as long as they have Michael Murphy in one of those houses, they’ll always have a chance” said one supporter.
True to form, Glenswilly started the second half with abandonment and went at Ballinderry. They put together a brilliant move, which seen Caolan Kelly score a goal.
The Glenswilly people jumped up, as did the Burt people beside me, and the Letterkenny Gaels members in the seats behind. There were even ardent St Eunan’s followers on their feet, clapping. Not that they’ll admit to it.
The first ten minutes of the second half were as action packed as any game I had ever seen. But as the match settled down again, it was Ballinderry who came to the fore. They introduced Aaron Devlin and Derry legend, Enda Muldoon to see them over the line.
In the end, it was just one step too many for Glenswilly. There was no shame in being defeated by such a brilliant Ballinderry team, but the Glenswilly side will have no interest in moral victories.
Glenswilly’s championship campaign came to a conclusion, and their players died with their boots on. Their supporters stood on after the final whistle to commend the players for their performances and the joy they have brought them throughout the last number of months.
The wee club, with the big heart, will be back.