By Niall Gartland
ERRIGAL Ciaran footballer Niall Kelly says he never countenanced any doubts that they could get their hands on the O’Neill Cup, despite some of the setbacks of recent seasons.
They came out second best in the 2017 and 2019 finals, and there were a number of other stomach-churning defeats which could’ve derailed a lesser group of men.
But they kept on going to the well and their efforts were rewarded on Sunday as they edged one of the best championship finals in memory against their old rivals Carrickmore.
Kelly, who was diligent as ever in a defensive remit, says he was confident that their day would come.
“I wouldn’t say I had any doubts, there’s grit and character in the team, it’s a hard group of players and I backed every man to climb the steps of Healy Park. It’s been a long time coming, it was ten years since we last won the championship so we’re just delighted to get over the line.”
Notorious for its competitive nature, Errigal Ciaran were pushed all the way in this year’s championship right from the starting pistol.
They survived a scare against the Moy, were full value for a hugely impressive win against Dungannon, and dethroned the holders Dromore in the semi-final.
They were favourites heading into the final, but Carrickmore gave it absolutely everything in the second-half. Ultimately it wasn’t enough as Errigal held on for a fantastic championship success.
“That’s the Tyrone championship for you,” said Kelly. “Any team can beat any team on any given day, you have to be on it from the word go, and if you slack off for just one minute you’ll be caught, so it’s just sheer relief to get over the line.”
In a memorable acceptance speech, team captain Tommy Canavan paid tribute to all those around the club who contributed to their latest triumph. Kelly said they were conscious they were representing everyone associated with Errigal.
“This is a serious club and we all push hard in the direction of the big days. We just wanted to get up those steps. There’s a lot of great people who have come before us, a lot of great people who have sadly passed, and we’ve done this for the people around the club, it means so much to everyone. It’s been some year, and seeing those you grew up with, parents and coaches are people like that, it puts this success in perspective for us.”