By Michael McMullan
UNREAL. It’s one word, but that’s how young Glenullin attacking ace Fearghal Close described the scenes of utter pandemonium after Sunday’s Derry intermediate final.
The ‘Glen came back from five points down in the first quarter to level matters, with Close kicking two points, one with either foot.
“We needed them to steady the ship and get the scoreboard ticking over,” he said of their controlled spell in the middle of the first half.
Close added one of his side’s six without reply to get them back in contention midway through the second half of Sunday’s classic against neighbours Drumsurn.
“It’s unreal and it was going always going to go down to the wire with the way both teams played… I’m just buzzing,” Close said in a sea of green smoke and hugs of sheer emotion.
Glenullin rode their luck after the experienced swathe of players got to grips with the game and helped gain a foothold in the midfield battle.
With the second half barely minutes old, and with his side 1-7 to 0-7 ahead, Tiarnán McHugh pulled a goal chance wide after Drumsurn’s long kick-out tactic left Glenullin exposed at the back.
“That was a big turning point,” admitted an ecstatic Close. “I have played against him (McHugh) all the way up and I’ve seen him net them. Today he didn’t score it and it was our day.”
Both teams still had chances in an error-ridden final ten minutes, with possession changing hands as tension grew at the end of a pulsating senior game that dwarfed the senior final for excitement. With time almost up, Eoin ‘Skinner’ Bradley was faced with a sideline kick to win the game, with the Glenullin fans just metres behind him on the terrace.
“You better believe I was going for it,” Bradley admitted after the game, with a smile as wide as Celtic Park.
But when his kick dropped short, it was corner back Daniel O’Kane who forced the ball over the bar to win the title with the first point of his eight-year senior career.
“At the end of the day, we got over the line. A long ball in and Dan won it for us,” Close said, still being engulfed by a sea of green and gold clad fans.
“It is just unbelievable,” he bellowed. “In over 100 years, this is only ever the fifth (adult championship) title Glenullin have won, so we are buzzing about it.
“It’s 15 years since the last final (2007 senior win) and it is going to be great for the community. It’s a brilliant feeling and after last year we should’ve been playing junior.”
Their unbeaten run through the championship group stages led them to a semi-final with Castledawson, a game that saw Close – their third top scorer – replaced without raising a flag.
Manager Paddy Bradley admitted he “took a hunch” on Close for a starting slot despite Dermot O’Kane and Felix Kilmartin’s performances in training. Close repaid him with three points from play.
“We wrote the semi-final off,” Close reveals. “In our heads, we didn’t even look at a second of the game and just focused on the next one.
“We have never played as poorly as we did on our lives and we got over the line. We saw it that it was a bye into the final, we didn’t dwell on it and went back to our earlier performances.”
A tilt at Ulster? Maybe, but that’s for another day Close indicated as he raced off to see skipper Brian Mullan lift the cup.