Gerry Devlin smiled down on the Athletics Ground in Armagh from that great grandstand in the sky as his beloved St. Enda’s celebrated the greatest fete in the club’s history by beating Mullahoran of Cavan in the Ulster Intermediate football club final on Saturday night.
Seated alongside the former player and manager of the Glengormley club were Liam Canning, Colin Lundy and his mother Kathleen, Sean Fox and Gerard Lawlor all savouring the moment as the Armagh pitch was draped in a cloak of amber and black as their strong support joined their heroes to celebrate this remarkable victory.
In an era where commitment and sacrifice are the words most often used to illustrate just what is required to achieve success Gerry Devlin and his heavenly colleagues made the ultimate sacrifice.
Gerry was shot dead when leaving the old St. Enda’s clubrooms on the 5th December 1997. He was 36 years of age and had served his beloved St. Enda’s for most of his life. After injury had cut his playing career short he took over the management of the senior football team who gained promotion to division 1 in 1993.
Gerry was regarded as a manager ahead of his time and we can only imagine what he might have achieved had it not been for that tragic night. Liam Canning was 19 when he was shot dead by an off duty UDR member in 1981 while Colin Lundy was only 16 when he and his mother Kathleen were burned to death in their Glengormley home after loyalist’s poured petrol through their letter box in 1991.
Another club stalwart, Sean Fox was 72 when he was murdered in his home, only 200 yards from the St. Enda’s ground in 1993 while Gerard Lawlor was the last to die, cut down as he walked home to his new house on the Whitwell Road on the 22nd July 2002, a promising player just 18 years of age.
Their collective crime, being members of a GAA club in an area where sectarianism and intolerance was rife and in the years that followed St. Enda’s suffered but the spirit of those who had gone before kept the dream alive and today they are a club who are the envy of many.
Their complex beside the old ground boasts three full size playing pitches and they have excellent changing facilities including a new clubhouse. A very successful coaching programme produced a Feile winning side in 2011 and they went on to win the Paul McGirr tournament in 2012. That same group of players won the Antrim minor championship in 2015 and many of them featured on Saturday night’s winning side.
Under the guidance of former Antrim supremo, Frank Fitzsimmons and his backroom team of Pat Hughes and Thomas McNulty they have established themselves in division 1 this season. That first Intermediate championship was finally won this year and Saturday night was the icing on the cake.
No doubt the names of Gerry Devlin, Liam Canning, Colin and Kathleen Lundy, Sean Fox and Gerard Lawlor were mentioned when the subject of Commitment and sacrifice popped up and they must have smiled broadly as they looked down from their heavenly grandstand as their side celebrated on Saturday evening.