The Final of 2002
The Junior Championship final
The Junior Championship final of 2002 will long be remembered and talked about by the Gaels of Butlersbridge. That Butlersbridge should reach the final of 2002, never mind win it, was indeed remarkable. Remarkable, because at the beginning of the season the club lost the services of five prominent players – Darragh Keogh (gone to Australia), Michael Fitzpatrick, Fergal Boylan and Noel McPhillips (U.S.A), and Gerard Boylan (taking a break from the game). This was not the news that team manager Pheilim Plunkett needed as he took charge of this team for the fifth year. Pheilim could have walked away but ‘throwing in the towel’ is not part of this man’s make up.
After a poor League performance the Championship began for Butlersbridge in July with an opening group game against Crosserlough. One very important thing had happened in the intervening months. Club Chairman, Paul Henry, had convinced Michael Fitzpatrick that he should return for the Championship. In the game against Crosserlough ‘Micky’ proved his worth scoring four points. Next up was Cavan Gaels and again ‘Micky’ was the marksman scoring five points, to record a one point win. Next followed a good victory over Killeshandra at a Killygarry venue. At this stage Butlersbridge were sure to top their group. In the final group match Butlersbridge slipped up to Munterconnacht but were none the less in the quarter final. The quarter final draws were made and the ‘Bridge were drawn against Munterconnacht and were very lucky to get a draw with a last minute point from Paul Murphy. In the replay the ‘Bridge won comfortably. On to the semi-final and a very convincing win over Templeport in early September. All seemed to be set for a repeat of the 1974 final between Butlersbridge and Mullahoran. However Kildallan objected to the constitution of the Mullahoran team and after a lengthy process Killdallan were declared as final opponents for Butlersbridge and November 17th 2002 was the date fixed in Kingspan Breiffni Park for the final to be held.
The flags and buntings were now up for over six weeks but at last the scene was set. The day started in the best possible way – dry, calm and no strong sun. The team, officials, club committee and some supporters attended a special mass in the Hotel Kilmore celebrated by Rev. Fr. Paul Casey C.C. The mood among the players was excellent – calm, relaxed and confident.
The game started at 2:30pm in Kingspan Breiffni Park. The Anglo-Celt report covers the match details. At the sound of the final whistle the ‘Bridge were Junior Champions for only the third time in the clubs history (the previous wins coming in 1963 and 1974). A twenty-eight year gap had been bridged on a scored line of 1-6 to 0-6. The disappointment of 1999, losing to Drumlane, had been wiped away. Joint captains Diarmuid Smith and Paul McCorry proudly hoisted the Sean Leddy Cup presented by County Board Chairman George Cartwright. Right half back on the ‘Bridge team, Paul Murphy, was presented with the ‘Man of the Match’ award by Ciaran McKenna from the Cavan Crystal, sponsors of the Championship. The scenes of sheer joy and excitement and relief in the ‘Bridge dressing room had to be seen to be believed.
At approximately 4:30pm the triumphant cavalcade set off for Butlersbridge with the Sean Leddy Memorial Cup returning home to a rapturous reception from young and old. An evening of joyful celebrations began culminating with a club dinner in the Derragarra Inn at 7 pm. Many tributes were paid to the dedication of the players, the selectors, the club officials, supporters, under-age committee and so on, but everyone agreed that the success of this team was down to one man who has worked tirelessly over five years and brought on so many young and, not so young, players. A man who has proved himself a complete gentleman with everyone in Butlersbridge. A man who never lost faith while others doubted. For Pheilim and his players November 17th 2002 was the icing on the cake.
On Wednesday, November 20th 2002 the Sean Leddy Cup was brought to Butlersbridge Central N.S. where the ninety-six children and four teachers and learning – support teacher gave the visitors a tremendous reception. Well known Cornafean piper, Sean Kelly, led club captain Paul McCorry and chairman Paul Henry through the school doors carrying the cup. This proved to be both an exciting and emotional occasion. School principle Terry Leddy paid tribute to the team, team manager and everyone who had contributed to this historic occasion. Further contributions came from Paul McCorry, Paul Henry, Pheilim Plunkett, Fr. Paul Casey, John Emmo, Oliver Henry and the school children. Pat Lee was present with his video camera. While having a cup of tea the players and officials posed for photographs with the children, who responded with ‘We’ve got the best team in the land’ and a poem specially written for the occasion called ‘Final Showdown’.
Present in the school on this very special occasion were the ninety-six children, teachers Terry Leddy, Evelyn Brady, Geraldine Donohoe, Carmel Beggan, Geraldine Donohoe, Fr. Paul Casey, Sean Kelly (piper), Pat Lee (video), Paul Henry, Deirdre Henry, Eileen McGearty, Mary Shannon, Jim McCorry, Sean Browne, Stan Cameron, Martin Ellis, Hugh Leddy, Oliver Henry, Pheilim Plunkett.
Players – Paul McCorry (captain), Michael Fitzpatrick, Ronan Flanagan, Patrick McGovern, John Emmo, Sean Henry, Gerry McPhillips, Mark Shannon, John Shannon.
Ulster Club Championship
Butlersbridge, as Cavan Junior Champions, qualified to play in the Ulster Club Championship, a competition hosted by the Cremartin Club in county Monaghan.
On Sunday December 2002 Butlersbridge took on Crossmaglen Rangers in Cremartin’s Pitch. The match was played on a very heavy pitch and in a gale force wind. The ‘Bridge had to lineout without their goalkeeper Niall McCorry, who was replaced by Bernard Reynolds. Playing with the wind at their backs in the first half, the ‘Bridge attacked relentlessly but some very poor shooting cost them dearly. At half time the sides were level. In the second half Crossmaglen opened with a rather lucky goal. However, the ‘Bridge fought like tigers but could never get on top of a very physical Crossmaglen team who had five players booked and one sent off in that second half. Greater experience won the day for Crossmaglen but Butlersbridge had acquitted themselves well in their first ‘Ulster’ outing. Final score Crossmaglen 3-5, Butlersbridge 0-8.
Reserve League Final
Within weeks of Butlersbridge historic Championship win came news that, following a re-checking of the points table, Butlersbridge’s second team had qualified for the League Final, where they would play Castlerahan. So on Saturday, December 14th, 2002 the two teams met in Crowe Park in Lacken. The ‘Bridge line out was as follows:
John Emmo Mark Shannon Stephen O’Hara
Lorcan Mulvey Pauric McGearty Andrew McConnell
David McEntee Matthew Boylan
John Shannon Karlos Conlon Paddy McGovern
Sean Henry Killian Shannon Gary McEntee (cpt.)
Subs used : Gerry McPhillips for Garry McEntee.
In many ways this was the best performance by a ‘Bridge team in 2002 as they totally dominated the game from start to finish and should have won by a lot more. The team played with great determination and skill and supported each other right throughout the field. The final score of 3-6 to 2-3 did not adequately reflect how dominant the ‘Bridge were. There were scenes of jubilation on the pitch when Gary McEntee hoisted the Cathal Brady Cup. Another cup was on its way to the ‘Bridge where it received a rapturous welcome.