Apr Winner – Eamonn Sheridan
APRIL 27, 2014, is a date that will forever be cherished by the good folk of Rathmullan Celtic after the club won its maiden Premier Division title. A hotbed of soccer talent, Rathmullan became accustomed to seeing their star products leave the town and go on to make their names elsewhere.
That was until four years ago, when the club started on a remarkable journey which took them from the third tier to the summit of the Donegal Junior League. No player emphasised the passion and desire to help the club reach their destination more than their veteran striker, Eamonn Sheridan.
The Dublin-based forward commuted home every weekend to lead the line for Rathmullan in their title charge. He had already confirmed this would be his last season in the green and white hoops, and he got the perfect swansong as Rathmullan defeated Glenea United, and Kilmacrennan Celtic held Lifford Celtic to land the league crown for the seasiders. Sheridan boasts an impressive CV after playing for Finn Harps, Omagh Town and Institute amongst others, but it is the triumph in Glascheroo that the 39-year-old rates as the highlight of his career.
“We were all shocked really. I came off with five minutes to go and there were men trying to tell me about what was going on in the Lifford game, but I didn’t want to know until our game was over,” Sheridan explained “The word filtered through shortly after the match, but it didn’t sink in ‘til late that night.
Kilmacrennan were struggling for a team that day and we didn’t hold out much hope of them getting something, but you can’t take anything for granted in football and they managed to do it for us. “It was unbelievable to go back to Rathmullan and see the whole town out to welcome us home with the league title.
It was a special day.” Their final day win over Glenea was the pivotal moment in the season, but Sheridan says that Rathmullan’s opening day win had a huge impact on their victorious campaign. “My brother Paddy and ‘Burger’ (Patrick Patton) took over at the start of the year, but we were really struggling for players.
A few boys let us down and we only had nine men available, plus Paddy and another man who were injured. “We somehow got a win that day and it meant as much to me as any trophy we had won in the previous three years. I know Curragh went on to have a poor season, but that was a massive win for us and it got the year started.” TOUGH SEASON Rathmullan brought in Kieran Gorman and Glenn Bovaird to bolster the squad and their experience was crucial throughout the season, especially as they encountered some tricky local derbies.
“It was a tough season as we had a lot of derbies with Cranford, Milford and Kilmacrennan and you’re never going to win them all. “We scraped a win in the last minute against Cranford and then drew with them at home. There was a period when we weren’t going so well, but we managed to stay out in front and that was important. “It was always in our own hands and Paddy kept saying ‘We’re top boys, and we’re staying top’, and that’s what we did.” When Sheridan – who made his Sunday league debut when he was just 13 for Whitestrand – joined up with Rathmullan four years ago, the club was at a low ebb.
They were underachieving, but the club’s new managerial duo were ready to make a big push. “Mush (Mark Curran) and Dessie McLaughlin came in and they asked me to come back. The club wasn’t going anywhere really and most of the team were drinking at weekends and not giving it their full commitment,” said Sheridan.
“But the two lads said they would bring discipline and they did. Every man gave their commitment and put in huge effort from that moment on.” Their hard work paid off and they started to make strides through the Donegal Junior League. “We won the CT Ball and that gave us the taste for it.
The next year we had a tough battle the whole way with Killybegs but we eventually won the First Division. “I retired after that, but came back along with Oisin McMenamin the following Christmas when the club was second bottom in the Premier Division.
We went on a great run then, but slipped up and Lifford won the league. However, we did win the Brian McCormick Cup which helped us to finish the year on a high and kept the momentum going for this year.” Sheridan is delighted to have been part of Rathmullan’s history-making squad, but he admits that there is a tinge of regret that he did not commit a little sooner to his hometown cause.
“I had played with St James’s Gate for about six years and then I went to Fanad for a few seasons. I enjoyed my time there, but I do regret not playing for Rathmullan when I was making the effort of coming home. “Burger was probably the same. I won plenty of medals in my career, but I had never felt anything like winning with Rathmullan. “It meant so much to win the league for our hometown.
I always had great respect for the GAA in the way it could unite a community and men would go through a wall for each other. “And that’s exactly what we had with Rathmullan. Everyone gave it everything they had and we got the reward for that.” Sheridan will not play for Rathmullan anymore, but he has no intention of hanging up his boots just yet, and is on the lookout for a club back in the capital.
“I’m stopping the commute to Rathmullan but I’m going to keep playing up in Dublin. I have been training up here over the last number of years with the Gate and some of the boys would even call me ‘gaffer’, because I’ve been there that long,” he laughed. “I’d be looking to join them again or get a good junior side.
I’m still feeling fit and healthy and I’m looking for a play at a decent level where I’ll get a challenge. “People keep saying to me, ‘You’ll miss it, you know’, and I know I will, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s hard leaving the lads after a match as they’re going in for a few pints and you have this long journey to Dublin in front of you.
“The travel just got too much in the end, but I’m happy to sign off with the league title. There’s no better way to finish up with your hometown club.”