Enniskillen Rangers manager Michael Kerr was disappointed to have lost Tuesday night’s fonaCAB Junior Cup final against Willowbank on penalties but he was still bursting with pride in his players who put in another massive effort.

The defeat stopped Rangers bid to become the first club to win junior football’s blue ribbon competition four times in a row but he acknowledges that when the dust settles they will be able to look back on what has been a wonderful run.

“Look, we’re disappointed right now but when we look back on this we will have to be proud of this run for four years. It was going to have to come to an end at some time and to be honest I would rather lose in a final than in a first or second round. We have shown some character to get back here four years in a row, everyone wants to beat the champions and we have stood up time and again and been counted.

“As I say, talking to you now right after the game the disappointment is raw but in the long term we will have to be proud of our efforts over the last four years and I couldn’t be prouder of this bunch of players.

“We’ll take a week off now and recover and then look to next year,” he said.

Willowbank shaded matters in the first half and went in at the break with the lead after captain Eamon Hughes converted from the spot in injury time.

“In the first half we weren’t at it at all, we weren’t ourselves and we probably showed them far too much respect, we sat off them too much and let their centre halves play out.

“Their movement was excellent all over the pitch and you really see that when you are playing against them although I thought we coped with it alright and they didn’t open us up too much,” added the ‘Gers player manager.

However, he felt that his side were much better after the break as they began to take the game to Willowbank.

“We got to grips with it at half time and changed our tactics and went for it a bit more. From the second half on we felt we had the upperhand and had them on the back foot.

“In truth, I don’t remember Gareth Barbour having a save to make the whole game and on another day Jason (Keenan) could have had a hat-trick and that’s not a criticism of him because he is getting into those positions. He had the one he scooped over the bar, one he whipped past the post, he hit the post too in the second half.”

The introduction of Stuart Rainey also helped the ‘Gers with his pace causing all sorts of problems for the Willowbank defence.

“Stuart had tonsillitis for a few days so he didn’t start but he is a great player and would start for any team in Northern Ireland at this level and is well capable of playing at a higher level but that’s the benefit of having a serious strong squad. He came on and gave us that pace and drive,” added Kerr.

And the equaliser arrived with 12 minutes to go as Rainey turned home after good work by Christopher Currie and Keenan. At this stage the momentum was all with Rangers but the dismissal of Kerr swung the advantage back the other way. Kerr was deemed to have caught Declan Gill with a flailing elbow but it was a decision that annoyed the ‘Gers boss.

“We got the equaliser and I felt we were well on top at that stage but them there was the sending off and that probably had an effect on the game. For me personally it was very disappointing and I didn’t think it was a red card at all and it killed the momentum off as a sending off would.

“But credit to the ten players they were absolute colossal for the last ten minutes of the 90 minutes and the extra time. They are top players and have great attitudes and as I say I couldn’t be more proud of them,” he said.

Kerr also hailed the two players who missed from the spot in the shoot out.

“Penalties are a lottery and I’m after saying to Richie and Neil, those two boys are two heroes for Enniskillen Rangers, the two of them should hold their heads high, two top men and they put in two top performances tonight.”

There was also words of praise for the winners.

“That team has been there or thereabouts for the last four years. They are a great side and credit to them, I hope they enjoy it.”