By Niall Gartland
THE celebrations have been parked for now as Fintona embark on their maiden voyage into the provincial arena as they get ready for Saturday’s Ulster Junior Championship preliminary clash against Ballyhegan (Armagh) at the Athletic Grounds.
The Pearses long-awaited County succeess was their fifth ever title at adult level, but this is the first time they’ve been afforded the opportunity of showing what they can do in the provincial arena.
Whatever happens, 2023 will go down in the annals of the club as they won their first Junior title in nearly fifty years with an extra-time victory over Drumragh a fortnight ago.
Manager Martin Greene, a native of Derrygonnelly, was able to appreciate just how much it meant to the Pearses as he’d gone through a similar experience himself as a player.
“The lads did a fair bit of celebrating and that’s understandable given how much was at stake, to win a first title in 48 years, there was a massive feeling of relief.
“To be honest it reminded me of Derrygonnelly’s first ever Senior Championship title back in 1995. There was the same release of emotion. All that mattered was to get over the line and you saw how much it meant to the Fintona community in the scenes after the game in Healy Park.”
While the Junior final had its moments and certainly didn’t lack in drama, it was a nervy affair pockmarked with unforced errors.
It could’ve gone either way with both teams giving it everything for the cause, but Fintona eventually prevailed by a single point after extra-time.
Now the Pat Darcy Cup has been safely secured, they can afford to relax a little as they look ahead to taking on Armagh Junior winners Ballyhegan.
Greene said: “There is a bit of pressure off and we can go and really enjoy being part of the Ulster championship, playing teams from different counties. If you can’t go to the Athletic Grounds and get excited then when can you?”
Fintona played some great stuff in the league this year but they showed they have plenty of grit and resilience when they embarked on their championship run, particularly in their comeback victory over Aghaloo in the semi-final before edging a marathon battle with Drumragh.
Now they’ll look ahead to their provincial campaign knowing they have every chance of making a positive impression.
“Against Drumragh both teams were a bit nervy early on, we were both probably wary of going out and leaving ourselves too much to do.
“It’s just about getting over the line in a game like that, and we did so with a bit of luck along the way.
“We stuck at it to the very end and were lucky Drumragh missed a free right at the very end to bring it to a replay.
“In fairness the lads have shown great character and we took a lot of heart from the semi-final win over Aghaloo. We’ll try to go to the end of games whether it’s pretty or not.”