It was a long time coming, 39 years in fact, but Forkhill finally got over the line and claimed championship success for the first time since 1981.
There’s no doubt they went about it the hard way, beating the other three favourites for the title in Eire Og, Derrynoose and Belleek.
Three games, two extra times and a replay meant there was no shortage of excitement during their championship run, but it was well worth the wait.
“We always do things the hard way. Even in previously years, against St Paul’s and Annaghmore we’ve been winning at half time, we’ve been five or six points up and came out in the second half and just haven’t played. We got over the Athletic Grounds curse, that was more of it”.
“Boys were committed this year. There were a lot of boys that were there this year compared to previous years, we’d over 30 at training.
We used to say when we went from Junior to Senior, Barry Shannon used to tell us to do two laps and a match and this year (2020) we actually were just doing a wee bit of speed work and a match”.
Everything was up in the air during last year and Forkhill came out of lockdown hungrier than ever before.
Numbers at training improved from previous seasons and with it some momentum began to build.
“People were starved of training and of football and just wanted to get out of the house maybe and sick of being in the same routine. But there were a lot of young boys there too, I’d say we had about ten minors came up, while in other years we’d have one, if even.
This year (2020) we got a good few on and I think it was more that the young boys wanted to play football whereas in other years they might have went to minor training and dodged senior training and not wanting to make the step up”.
In recent years, Forkhill have been expected to dominate the Junior Championship, as they currently have three county men in their ranks, Stephen Sheridan, Paddy Burns and Jemar Hall.
While much of the opposition defence worries has revolved around the attacking threat of Hall, it leaves more room for other forwards like Toner to shine.
Although the corner-forward just likes to concentrate on his own game and make sure that he goes about winning his own personal battle.
“I wouldn’t think about stuff like that. Barry Shannon would always say ‘if everyone wins their own battles, we’ll not be too far away’. Everyone won their own battles throughout the championship.
It was half time I think (vs Eire Og) and three of my best friends got taken off and I was thinking ‘if I don’t up it, I’m going to be taken off’. The manager we have was brave, he wasn’t afraid to make decisions. He took off boys that have never been taken off; he wasn’t afraid to make changes”.
Forkhill kept two clean sheets in the quarter final and semi-final against Eire Og and Derrynoose, but likewise didn’t rattle the net until the first decider.
They went on to record four championship goals across the two finals against Belleek and Toner had a hand to play in all four.
Twice he rattled the net himself, both coming in the replay which Forkhill eventually won, while also setting both Darren King’s goals, one in each final.
It was Toner’s second goal that put the result beyond doubt in the championship replay, and it was a case of practise makes perfect.
“It was unbelievable, especially to score the second goal, I knew that was the nail in the coffin, I knew that was game over.
Leading up to that (the replay) every training session I practised that the whole time. Even Stephen (Sheridan) said to me after the game, ‘as soon as you got one on one, I knew you were finishing that’ because every time I got the ball in training, even only messing about, I’d always go for the far-left corner. Then I got one chance and took it”.
Those two goals helped Toner earn the Man of the Match award on the night, which accompanied his championship medal.
“My father actually was on the team when we won the last one and he was saying to me, ‘you’ll have to come home with a championship medal’ and I came home with two trophies!”
Leading into 2021, the Peadar O’Doirnin club will ply their trade in the Intermediate Championship and await the league structure to be announced.
It could be a case that Forkhill will have to see out their Junior League games before heading into the Intermediate Championship.
While it may not be the best preparation for a step-up in standard, Toner suggests that the Junior League can still throw up some challenging encounters.
“I can’t wait to step up to that standard but at the same time, Eire Og, Belleek and Derrynoose, they’re not bad teams so we’ve had to test ourselves from the start.
Even when we were going down the divisions, we always got a run in the championship, we beat Granemore one time in the Senior Championship”.
“We went through the group of death a few years ago and we topped it, then Mullaghbawn beat us in Cross. We’ve always got so far in the championship and then went backwards.
You can just take them as games to better yourself. Maybe playing boys who aren’t going to get minutes, you just don’t know what way it’s going to work out”.