Enniskillen suffered an agonising defeat in the final seconds of extra time, as they came up just short for the second year in succession at the River Rock Towns Cup Final at Kingspan Stadium. They held the lead in the second half and again in extra time, but a Ballynahinch converted try in the dying seconds ending their hopes of bringing the cup back to Mullaghmeen for the first time since 1937.
“The boys were gutted,” admitted Enniskillen Head Coach Willie Gibson. “It’s 100 minutes of rugby and we were one tackle away from it. It’s as simple as that. It was the last play of the game and we missed one tackle and that was enough to give them the game. It is tough on them. The hard bit was losing with the last play of the game. If you had been trounced by 50 points then we could have said that was ok because we weren’t good enough on the day, but we were good enough and we just failed at the very last hurdle.”
Ballynahinch held a three point lead at half time but Enniskillen responded well in the second half and when they hit the front with a penalty followed by a converted try, Willie thought they could hold on to claim the trophy.
“The boys were starting to get some ascendancy in the pack and they were starting to break the line,” he said. “There was just a couple of times it just didn’t go to hand. They were working just as hard as we were in defence and they put in the same effort as we did. They probably had a lot more possession than we did. Everyone makes the odd tactical mistake here and there but on the whole we did enough to be in it until the 99th minute, so you can’t complain. Ballynahinch are a quality side. There were probably points in the game here and there when we maybe could have got a try if we had made an extra yard here or an extra yard there, but it all comes down to what you can get on the scoreboard.”
It will take time to get over their cup final heartbreak, but the coach is already looking ahead, and believes that there has been enough positives during the season to face up to next season with confidence.
“It was an excellent season,” reckoned Gibson. “We wanted to get top four and we got fifth. We wanted to get back to the Towns Cup final and win it, and we almost did it. There was a few ‘almosts’ in there but I suppose the boys now know how good they are. They were maybe doubting themselves a wee bit at the start of the season, but we have done very well. The squad has matured well during the year and there is a lot of good young players there and plenty to come in from the under 18s as well. The club is in a good position to continue on in that league. You have to work hard to stay in that league and do well, and they did work hard this year but we just didn’t get our pay off at the end of it.”