Enniskillen Rangers: From Junior Cup final expulsion to double champions

Photo shows Enniskillen Rangers winning the Irish Junior Cup
-Credit: (Image: Irish FA)

If Carlsberg did weeks in football, then Enniskillen Rangers would be drunk on success. Last Friday night they clinched the Irish Junior Cup for the first time since 2019, and then five days later they defeated nearest rivals Tummery Athletic to lift the Mercer League.

Proud manager Michael Kerr admits it has been a rollercoaster week for the club after delivering a quick-fire trophy double. It also brought the curtain down on a hugely successful year for the Fermanagh side.

"It was quite a week. It couldn't have gone any better," said Kerr.

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"I suppose this time last week we were sitting wondering if we would win two trophies, one or possibly none. You always have that fear you could end up empty-handed.

"But to go and win both games without conceding a goal, it is huge testament to the players, especially our defence who were so strong. We kept two clean sheets in the two biggest games we have had this season."

Rangers beat Cleary Celtic 2-0 in Friday's Irish Junior Cup final at Stangmore Park. It saw the club lift the famous trophy for the fifth time in their history.

Photo shows Manager Michael Kerr with the league title
Manager Michael Kerr with the league title -Credit:Enniskillen Rangers

"The final was cagey enough and they had an early chance. We grew into it without creating too many opportunities," Kerr said.

"We felt if we could up the tempo and get more balls into the box, then we could have some joy. The substitutes were fantastic when they came on an added an extra dimension to our game. Two of them linked up in a move for the opening goal.

"I felt in the second half we were a lot better and I felt we were worthy winners in the end. It is the fifth time we have won it, and the first since that hat-trick of wins from 2017 to '19.

"This is a completely new squad now with new players. We have four out of the 20 that won the cup last time, so it has been freshened up over the past few years. And they have pushed the club on again."

The Junior Cup win is Kerr's fourth success in the competition with Enniskillen Rangers. He previously played for the club and was player/manager during that hat-trick run.

"This is my fourth, and first as just being the manager. It is special," he added.

"It feels as special now as it did when I won my first. I think because we know what it means to be Junior Cup champions. We had a spell there where we missed out, so we really wanted to get back.

"It is probably as special as the others. You sort of took the other ones in your stride. To win it again is remarkable."

Photo showing. Enniskillen Rangers who claimed a quick-fire double
Enniskillen Rangers claimed a quick-fire double -Credit:Enniskillen Rangers

Rangers' cup final date was almost taken away from them after the club was thrown out of the competition after beating Tummery Athletic 3-1 in the semi-finals. It came following an appeal from Tummery on the grounds that Rangers player Jordan McClure was involved with the matchday squad while he was suspended.

McClure played no part in the game but was present at the ground with the Rangers panel for a pre-match photo, which was deemed a breach of the IFA Disciplinary Code.

But despite concerns they could be dumped out of the competition, the Fermanagh side were reinstated following an appeal.

Kerr said: "There was a stage when we thought we might be thrown out. We always felt it would have been extremely harsh. We had the league to stay focused on, because we knew we had to keep winning games. And the committee took control of the Junior Cup appeal and thankfully it worked out for us.

"We had support from all over the island. I had messages from as far away as Kerry wishing us well. I think anyone with sporting integrity knew it was an honest mistake, and a club should not be thrown out over something like that.

"We received a lot of support and thankfully it all worked out."

By a twist of fate, the team Rangers beat to win the league title five days later was Tummery Athletic. Kerr says there was no added motivation going into the crunch clash.

"No, the motivation was there to win the league. It was just by fate that the last game of the season was against Tummery," he added.

"We just wanted to win the league, and getting three points. We got the goal midway through the second half and we held on to win the title.

"It is our first league title in five years, and we did it against a side who have dominated the division in recent years. Tummery have been top of the crop for three years which is a great achievement.

"I suppose every team was trying to halt that dominance and put a new name on the trophy, and we managed to do that. It shows how good they are that they won four in a row.

"I am just delighted for our players, coaching staff and everyone else for putting in the effort they did this season.

"The celebrations were fantastic, and we have a team night for Saturday. That will be the main celebration."

As for next season, Kerr joked that preparations are already under way.

"I have had teams contacting me about pre-season friendlies," he laughed.

"I need a break before even thinking about that, but it never stops. I also have to pick a squad to manage a Fermanagh and Western League representative side next week. I have done it twice before and I have enjoyed it, but this will be my last time.

"Someone else can enjoy it after this one."

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