Leonard finally gets hands on Fermanagh Junior Championship trophy

By Niall Gartland

ALMOST a year after the fixture was initially supposed to be played, the winners of the 2020 Fermanagh Junior Championship between Derrylin and Coa was finally determined on September 10.

The game was postponed last October due to Covid, and when they the rescheduled fixture went ahead three weeks ago, the game ended in a draw, with Derrylin somehow managing to hit five points without reply in injury time, only serving to delay the matter further.

The Derrylin captain Danny Leonard was actually missing that day as he was self-isolating after testing positive for Covid, but he returned to play a starring role as they finally got their hands on the Junior Championship title with a comfortable victory over Coa.

It rounded off a fantastic week for the club as they’d earlier secured promotion to Division Two in the league, so Leonard is delighted with how it’s all panned out.

“It was the toughest championship we could ever win, considering the long wait and the replay.

“I think we had to play everyone twice nearly. We’d a couple of replays last year as well.

“Coa are a big, physical side and they’re tough to beat but I think we learned from the first day.

“I missed it myself and it was tough watching from home as I had Covid. We still left it late.

“We didn’t really turn up in the second half but the boys turned it on at the end and came back from five points down to level it.

“We took confidence from that and knew that we couldn’t let it slip the next day it. The first half of the replay was tight but we pulled away with a couple of goals in the second-half.”

It was only a few years ago that Derrylin were struggling at the bottom of Division Two, so it’s some turnaround in fortunes for the club on the Fermanagh-Cavan border. Manager Aiden Gilroy has been a great help, but you can’t underplay the impact made by a swathe of young players coming throug the ranks.

“Everything’s pulling in the right direction. We’ve had good underage teams and we’re bleeding them into the seniors now.

“We got promotion the other week which is almost unheard of for us, so the whole community is buzzing about football.”

He continued: “Aiden has been massive for us, he’s brought in another fellow clubman of his from Ederney, they’re young managers and are breathing fresh life into the squad. We’ve a good squad. In the past we were near bottom of the table. We’ve now 20 odd boys who can put in a shift and there’s a good balance between young and old, and you do need these experienced boys as well.

“We’re not traditionally a championship winning club and that’s what we’re looking to change. We’d four or five on the county minors, and a few coming in for next year. We’re getting three or four players a year which is massive for us.”

Now they can look forward to their Intermediate Championship opener against Devenish in a month’s time. It’s a really difficult draw but they’ve nothing to lose.

“It’s a tough a draw as we could get. Devenish are a real seasoned, traditional Fermanagh team. They were relegated from the Senior Championship last year and I can’t remember the last time that’s happened.

“The standard in Intermediate level is very strong because there are some Division One teams.

“Apart from being Devenish and Belleek it’s more or less a level playing field. We’ve got a good buzz out of achieving promotion and we’ll have a cut at them. They are the heavy favouries for that game but we want to be competitive.”

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