Reihill Cup Final Friday 5th May 2017
Twenty-seven years on from pulling the strings in Town’s maiden Reihill Cup victory, Gary Beckett was at it again, bagging a brace and adding a second “Reihill” to his already extensive medal collection, as Town comprehensively outgunned old foes Enniskillen Rangers at a sun kissed Ferney Park on Friday night last. Son, Nathan, was also captain on the night, just for good measure. An incredible achievement and a lovely, lovely story.
May 1990? Maggie Thatcher Milk Snatcher still ruled, The Simpsons debuted on Fox TV, Nelson Mandela was recently released from Victor Verster Prison and Luciano Pavarotti would soon tell us Nessun Dorma. Jack Charlton was putting ’em under pressure, Paul Gascoigne was a largely unheralded figure and Town were yet to win their first major honour. Damian Love’s double would eventually secure a Mulhern Cup triumph over a much vaunted Shelbourne side – their inaugural Junior Cup victory was still four years in the making.
On a more base level, of the other ten starters on Friday night, four weren’t even born, another four were still on formula, Bisto was running around Celtic Park in a pair of wellies and a snorkel coat and Niall Keenan was still trying to find his way out of Mrs McCrea’s class. Or for those of you still not getting the point – Wee Scone was thirty-seven.
Fast forward to Friday night and Town boss Mark Connolly named a blend of youth and experience with plenty of “old school” surnames adorning the Match Programme. Damian Wardman was in nets, behind a back four of Bisto Corrigan, Ciaran Beacom, William Simpson(Marty Simpson’s Cub) and Ethan Beresford (Beresy’s Cub). Niall Keenan and Nathan “Scottish Hat” Beckett (Beckett’s Cub) manned the centre of midfield, flanked by Neil Love and Callum Jones (Rift’s Cub). Gary Beckett (Beckett himself) and Rory Connolly provided plenty of guile up top.
Local rivals Rangers entered the game on the crest of a wave following their historic Junior Cup victory over Lurgan’s Hill Street. A walk in the park by all accounts, one seasoned observer at the May Day showpiece wryly commented that you would pick a better team out of Mill Street – well certainly the great Mill Street side that beat Factory Road 14-13 (after extra time) on a glorious summer’s evening in 1983!
Anyhow back to proceedings and first chance of the game fell to Town’s Rory Connolly – just failing to connect with Neil Love’s through ball as Nathan Noble collected. A tepid opening ensued before the deadlock was broken on twenty-three minutes. Rift’s Cub with an inch perfect free-kick, Beresy’s Cub with the delivery.
Damian Wardman had to be alert to deny Lee Glass while Connolly‘s long ball stretched the Rangers’ rearguard – Jason Glass eventually averting the danger. A real moment of quality between sorcerer and apprentice soon followed. Callum Jones with a beautifully cushioned chest down, Beckett’s spectacular sideline volley just clearing the crossbar.
Wardman was again first to the ball with Lee Glass lurking before a somewhat unlikely equaliser arrived on thirty-eight minutes. There appeared to be no apparent danger when the third Glass sibling, Jarno, picked the ball up wide on the left. However, his cross cum shot deceived everybody for one all.
Stung into action, Town upped the ante, Jones striking the crossbar direct from a corner as an entertaining first half drew to a close.
Fifty-eight minutes and Town regained the initiative – Rift’s Cub heading home a Love corner. An increasingly influential Beckett frustratingly flashed a shot across Noble’s goal but would not be denied on sixty-four. Connolly with the threaded through ball and Beckett doing what Beckett does best as Town made it three. A strike that clearly meant as much to him as any enjoyed in a gold plated career, the sheer joy on his face unmasking a love for Town and a love of the game that seemingly knows no bounds – an inspiration to any young person embarking on a sporting career. We will never see his likes again.
Returning to the action and William Simpson had to be at his best with a last gasp block denying Leigh (is that not how girls spell it?) Jones. Simpson, part of a back five (none more so than Ciaran Beacom), that was imperious on the night. With little over twenty minutes remaining the game finished as a contest- Rift’s Cub’s inch perfect corner leaving Beckett with the simplest of tasks when nodding home. Sniffing a hatrick the fairytale was nearly complete when a long ball from defence found Beckett and Beckett’s Cub in acres of space. Thankfully the retreating Jay Glass done just enough to maintain family relations because I couldn’t have seen Beckett squaring to the much better positioned Scottish Hat.
One more incident of note, Wardman’s spectacular save equal to a Jones pile driver before joint captains Gary Finch and Beckett’s Cub lifted the Cup to end Town’s three year trophy drought.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Town were in eleventh heaven!
The B Team: D Wardman, C Corrigan, E Beresford, C Beacom, W Simpson, N Keenan, N Love, N Beckett, G Beckett, R Connolly, C Jones. Subs – G Finch for Corrigan (60), P Kettyles for Connolly (71), D Elliot for G Beckett (88).
Referee: Luke Henderson. Henderson and his two “Senior” Assistant Referees Odhran Mahon and Liam Shannon all looked as though they were only allowed to stay up late because it was Friday night. However, they belied their tender years with a creditable performance. Rumour has it that they all headed back to Henderson’s place to celebrate with a can of Top Deck – between them.
Attendance: 187 – great to see Gerry Connolly out and about and looking fit and well again.
Top Townie: Gary Beckett
“So You Did Son Moment”: Callum Jones. Take your pick – his exquisite delivery for Ethan Beresford’s opener, hitting the bar direct from a corner, scoring the decisive second goal or just stopping short of placing the ball on Beckett’s head for goal number four. A well deserved call-up to the Milk Cup Squad crowning what was a memorable week for a precocious talent.
Comedy Moment: Aside from the Fermanagh and Western Football Association’s spelling, Jarno Glass being the first man since Worzel Gummidge to screw his head on upsidedown.
Words from a Song: As relevant now as it was in 1990 – I Am The Resurrection.