AN emotional first trip for the Paddy O’Neill Cup was made by by the jubilant Dungannon players just minutes after their dramatic penalty shoot-out victory in the County Final on Sunday evening.
Parked on the terrace at Healy Park was one of the club’s greatest stalwarts and the Clarkes players, led by team captain, Padraig McNulty, took a few moments out to share their success.
Former chairman, Damien Cahalane, didn’t expected the poignant gesture. But it’s one that he very much appreciated as he reflected on years of heartbreak finally being released by the joy of winning the county title for the first time since away back in 1956.
“The players came up to me on the terrace soon after receiving the Cup. The celebrations were brilliant and I’ll say that there were never so many grown men crying as there were on Sunday night,” he told the DungannonHerald.
“This success has meant so much to everyone involved in the Clarkes. Like any and all clubs, we have immense pride in what we do and winning this title is just a wonderful reward for the players and everyone within the club.
“Back in 1986 I remember being beside Iggy Gallagher and Liam Donnelly after the final defeat. I said Dungannon would be back, it has taken 34 years but we’ve finally reached the promised land of this success.
“In all the long history of club championships, there has never been a case where a team has won the title after each of their games went to extra time and then penalties in the decider. I’d hasten to add that it won’t ever be done again.”
Mr Cahalane also praised the Dungannon players for how they had remembered many of those who had died since the last triumph in 1956 or the stalwarts who had dreamed of the club getting back among the title-winners in Tyrone.
“It shows the calibre of those young players that they took the time to remember the stalwarts who had worked so hard for this day to become a reality over the years,” he added.
“It was an absolutely wonderful occasion and a day that will live long in the memory for all of us. One of the most special things was to see people like our club President, Jimmy McCallin, being able to be in the stand to watch this long-awaited triumph.