Now coming up on a decade since their last triumph in a county championship final, Drumlane enter into the 2009 season with that same objective that has accompanied them each year since Athenry native Frank Brady led them to their first junior championship success since 1971.
Incidentally, it was Brady¢¬¢s number two, Donaghmoyne clubman Noel Marron, who was at the helm last year to try and lead the west Cavan men to a first ever intermediate triumph. Appointed as the successor to Ballyhaise man Phelim Plunkett, who left the club at the end of 2007 to give his full commitment to Donal Keogan¢¬¢s management team in Cavan, Marron took the reins along with devoted clubman Paul Fitzpatrick to form the club¢¬¢s senior management and together they made clear their intentions to the players from the very start ¢¬ the intermediate championship.
Arriving with a decent track record from clubs such as Donaghmoyne and Emyvale, the ex-Monaghan defender went straight to work with his players as they looked to make their best impression in the league after coming down from Division One the previous season.
Things got off to a shaky start though. A heavy opening defeat to Redhills at
Max McGrath Park, where young rising star Darragh Seagrave needed to be called upon to fill the shooting boots left vacant by Barry Cunningham and Barry Corrigan, who would be in for the first three rounds of the ACFL Division Two. New Zealand
Further defeats followed against Cootehill, Kingscourt and Drumgoon before Drumlane would register their first win of the year at
against Cavan Gaels with everyone available to them. Terry Coyle Park
¢¬ÅThat was an important win,¢¬ admits Kelly. ¢¬ÅAfter losing our first four games we were sitting bottom of the table with no points and needed to beat the Gaels badly when we went to play them.¢¬
As vital as that victory may have been for Drumlane, their next outing at home to neighbours Killeshandra Leaguers proved a huge stepping-stone in their season. After a relentless first-half display, the hosts toppled the league leaders at O¢¬¢Connell Park by 0-13 to 0-8, with faultless performances at the back from John O¢¬¢Dowd and JP Kelly and the likes of Padraig Leddy and Barry Corrigan hitting the forefront to ensure that Drumlane would leap out of the relegation zone and make their journey towards safety.
Wins against Bailieborough, Killinkere and Drung followed for Marron¢¬¢s side to make sure they¢¬¢d be out of the woods come the first round of the intermediate championship, where they¢¬¢d face a tricky tie against Ballymachugh in Cornafean.
¢¬ÅIt was important that we were safe by the time the championship came around, because it¢¬¢s not something you want nestling in the back of your mind,¢¬ says Kelly.
¢¬ÅBallymachugh were always going to be a tough team to try and overcome, and we needed to be ready and focused when we came up against them otherwise we could have slipped into the backdoor, and that¢¬¢s a lottery by all means.¢¬
Kelly was bang on with that point. Drumlane would need to put in a performance that would mirror their win over Killeshandra two months prior, and for the first half-hour they did exactly that.
Points from Barry Corrigan and Barry Cunningham saw Drumlane race ahead of their opponents, before they hit the net when Cunningham¢¬¢s pass found Kelly¢¬¢s youngest son, Shane, on the edge of the square, where the tall attacker fisted to the net for a comfortable seven-point lead at the interval.
The second-half proved to be a completely different proposition for the Sons of O¢¬¢Connell though. Goals from Niall Baxter and Adrian Daly brought the east Cavan outfit right back into contention and left just a point in it coming towards the closing stages.
Marron¢¬¢s charges severally tightened up at the back through the likes of Robbie Smith and Glen Fitzpatrick, and when Barry Corrigan smashed over from long range for a two-point lead Drumlane were afforded some breathing space, which eventually brought them into the quarter-finals.
¢¬ÅWe came away from Cornafean glad of the win,¢¬ says Kelly, ¢¬Åbut we knew we¢¬¢d have to improve on that performance if we were to have any chance of progressing in the championship. In the dressing room afterwards Noel Marron told the players that full commitment to training was paramount if we were to beat the likes of Redhills, who he rated as favourites after watching them play earlier on in the season.¢¬
And so it was. Drumlane turned out in big numbers at training sessions in their fine facilities at O¢¬¢Connell Park in preparation for their mouth-watering clash with Drumgoon in the last eight of the IFC. Now a month on from the win over Ballymachugh, Marron and Fitzpatrick had the players well tuned up for what was sure to be a gruelling test at
. Kingspan Breffni Park
Things got off to a wobbly start for the side ranked as underdogs to a Drumgoon side that had been high-flying in Division Two all season long. The °ire gs forged a 0-3 to nothing lead in the opening stages but Drumlane would eventually come to life through their forwards winning frees in the sufficient positions, which suited Barry Corrigan to point them level on 0-6 apiece by the break.
On the resumption, Barry Cunningham lashed over a sublime brace of points within a minute of each other to give his side the lead for the first time in the match. From there, Barry Corrigan and Dane O¢¬¢Dowd, who put in a performance that done no harm to his ambitions with the Cavan senior panel, shone at centre-field, while the likes of team captain Gareth Corrigan, Fergal Brady and Aidan Greene worked like Trojans in the half-forward line to try and retrieve possession from the breaking ball at centre-field.
Drumgoon did their utmost to muster a reply, Corrigan, who top-scored with 0-7, kept the score-board ticking over for the leaders though. Coming into the final stages Drumgoon were level through the scores of Ian O¢¬¢Reilly and Martin Clerkin, and almost stole the show when John McDonald snuck through on goal, but his effort was brilliantly turned around the post by Kelly¢¬¢s oldest son, Danny, who had an outstanding evening between the posts upon his return from
The crowd at Breffni Park were on the edge of their seats as Keith Fannin came close to breaking Drumlane hearts with the resultant ¢¬Ë45¢¬¢, but it tailed wide and cometh the hour, cometh the man when Glen Fitzpatrick stormed forward from corner-back to gather a pass from Dane O¢¬¢Dowd and crack over the winner two minutes into the added on time to send Drumlane into their third semi-final in as many years.
¢¬ÅThat was a great win,¢¬ recalls Kelly. ¢¬ÅDane and Barry were magnificent in the middle of the field that day, but it was an all around team performance that won it for us on the day, and it brought us into our third consecutive semi-final. The players got their priorities right after that. There were celebrations that night, but afterwards it was straight back to training and focussing on what was going to be a tough game against Redhills.¢¬
Galway native wasn¢¬¢t too far off the mark. After easing into the quarter-finals, Redhills turned over Bailieborough to book their place in the last four, where they picked Drumlane out of the hat.
On a bitter night at
, which Drumlane followers will want to forget, the goals of Joe Callan and Colin Reilly effectively ended Marron¢¬¢s side¢¬¢s season, as Drumlane exited the intermediate championship with a whimper at the semi-final stage once more. Breffni Park
¢¬ÅIt was a tough loss to take,¢¬ the retired Garda admits. ¢¬ÅWe conceded a freakish goal in the first-half but (Barry) Cunningham¢¬¢s goal left us in contention at half-time. We ran them close in the second-half but they got their second goal when they were going for a point and that kind of puts it all into perspective.¢¬
Redhills went onto take the title from there, but the pain of that defeat, like the ones to Lavey and Drumalee in the years prior, will continue to linger within the players until things are put right and Kelly sees that happening in 2009.
No shortage of underage success
In 2008 Drumlane¢¬¢s underage machine gathered up more silverware to add to its already impressive credentials. Spearheaded by staunch clubman and mentor Vincent Connolly, the young Sons of O¢¬¢Connell footballers competed in four county finals last year and brought back two cups to the club.
While the celebrations were potent in the club, it meant that one team finished the season empty handed. Unfortunately, after reaching both the league and championship finals in the Roinn D grade, the club¢¬¢s Under 14 footballers would miss out on silverware at the final stage. A bad start against Kill saw Drumlane leak two early goals in the decider at
, and despite a gallant fight back from there onwards the west Cavan side couldn¢¬¢t forge a victory as Kill held out for the league title. Breffni Park
In late September, Drumlane found themselves in another final at Cavan¢¬¢s GAA headquarters, looking to assert some revenge against Redhills, after the seniors¢¬¢ clash a week prior at the same venue saw Noel Marron¢¬¢s side exit the intermediate championship. There would be no joy though, as Redhills stormed to the title in a one-sided affair, which saw Drumlane¢¬¢s star forward Ryan Connolly account for his side¢¬¢s total score of 1-4.
Drumlane¢¬¢s Under 13¢¬¢s were to have a bit more luck on their travels to
in an epic encounter with Ballinagh in the Roinn C Championship final. Once again Ryan Connolly was the scoring resource for the Sons of O¢¬¢Connell, striking an outstanding 2-12 in a game which needed to be decided after extra-time. Breffni Park
However, despite Connolly¢¬¢s salient contribution, Drumlane were a bit anxious going into the game without their captain Francis Lunney, who Vincent describes as ¢¬Åthe team¢¬¢s very own Brian Dooher¢¬. The promising young dual player was unfortunate to have fractured his wrist in the last training session before the final and would miss out on what promised to be an enthralling clash with the young men from ¢¬ËThe ¢¬ËNagh¢¬¢.
The Drumlane supporters were barely in their seats when Ballinagh fired in the first of the game¢¬¢s nine goals through corner-forward Ryan Dunne, but sure enough the would-be winners went down the other end from the following attack and levelled through centre-forward Philip King.
By the 12th minute Ballinagh had found the net again, but the points of Ryan Connolly kept Drumlane deservedly in the game at half-time, as the town side went in at the break, leading 2-4 to 1-5.
Drumlane gained the lead early on in the game¢¬¢s resumption thanks to more points from the reliable Connolly, but a bigger and stronger Ballinagh side, who were up against a Drumlane team that had five Under 11 players, restarted the game in ideal fashion by hitting the net for the third, which saw them into a two-point lead.
Ballinagh had come into a purple patch, but Drumlane weathered the storm well after Fionan Janovic denied the leaders their fourth goal, which would have killed off the game, in the 44th minute with a smart save from the lethal Dunne. After that S©amus King blocked down a Ballinagh effort which was goal-bound and that saw Drumlane catch their opponents on the break and allow Ryan Connolly to blast in a quick free in front of goal to the net for a 2-10 to 3-6 lead.
Drumlane looked to be doomed when Eoin Kelleher blasted in his second goal six minutes in to help Ballinagh into a 5-8 to 2-13 lead at half-time, but the second-half of extra-time saw Connolly¢¬¢s side get their second win and on 80 minutes Philip King¢¬¢s quick free found none other than Ryan Connolly in front of goal, who buried the ball past Colin McCabe in the Ballinagh goal, confirming Drumlane as Roinn C Champions for 2008.
Drumlane (U13 Roinn C C¢¬¢ship final v Ballinagh): Fionan Janovic, Donal Monaghan, Declan Burns, S©amus King, Declan Lunney, Ciar¡n Seagrave, Cian Monaghan, James Dolan, Killian McKiernan (0-1), Philip King (1-1), Luke Longair, Ryan Connolly (2-12), Ciar¡n Keaney (1-0). Sub used: Cian Maguire.
At Under 12 level Drumlane scooped league and championship honours in both codes, Vincent Connolly¢¬¢s footballers came out on top of a one-sided affair against neighbours Kildallan to claim the Roinn D title, while Pat Kelly¢¬¢s hurlers overcame the mighty Mullahoran to collect the championship crown and round off an outstanding year of underage success for the club.
Fitzpatrick takes well earned break
After 13 years of loyal service, 2008 also saw Paul Fitzpatrick step down from all positions with the Drumlane club, including the role of club treasurer. Fitzpatrick, who has also acted as assistant manager of the club¢¬¢s senior team for the past three years, made his decision known to the club committee shortly after Drumlane¢¬¢s season concluded last year, citing a well earned break as the reason. A devoted clubman, Paul received a standing ovation at the club¢¬¢s AGM in January in respect of the work he has done with the club since the mid-90s, and made it known that he will remain on the committee in 2009. Members of the club would once again like to thank Paul for all the excellent work he has done during his involvement with Drumlane GFC.