Northern Ireland news

Fermanagh reaches fever pitch as county anticipates Ulster GAA final

On the bench: Cousins Emilie Simms (Donegal top) and Ollie Finlay (Fermanagh top) in Ederney. Picture by Ann McManus
Brendan Hughes

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EXCITEMENT in Fermanagh is reaching fever pitch as the county prepares for tomorrow's highly-anticipated Ulster GAA final.

Fermanagh is awash with green and white as GAA fans and well-wishers get behind the Ernemen in their quest to win the Anglo-Celt Cup for the first time.

An exodus is expected as the county en masse makes the trek to Clones to cheer on the team against match favourites Donegal.

But before the serious stuff on the pitch, people have been keen to show their support and celebrate Fermanagh's moment in the sporting spotlight – their first Ulster final in a decade.

Schools across the county yesterday held 'Fermanagh days', with pupils, staff and parents dressing in their Fermanagh jerseys and green-and-white garb ahead of the big match.

At St Paul's Primary School in Irvinestown, former county stars Marty McGrath and Shane McDermott dropped by to chat to the excited pupils.

The school was also joined by local parish priest Canon Michael McGourty, who brought along his dog Mitzi – suitably dressed in green-and-white knitware for the occasion.

"I'm looking forward with hope and optimism," said Canon McGourty, originally from Belcoo, who himself wore a green collar for the party.

"I'm just very optimistic. We have two great managers and it's Fermanagh's best chance in a long time. We don't underestimate Donegal – but we're up for it."

Anne Molloy, principal of the school, described the atmosphere in Fermanagh as "quite electric".

"Everybody is running around in their green and white. I suppose we just really believe this is as good a chance as we have had and we're really hoping that we can do it this time," she said.

"Unfortunately I can't make the match but I will be cheering them on from the television screen."

She said the schoolchildren were "really excited", adding that Fermanagh captain Eoin Donnelly is a past pupil of the school.

"Some of our boys would be hopeful that they would be captain of the Fermanagh team – that's their aspiration," she said.

Pupils at St Columban's Primary School in Belcoo held a charity 'Fermanagh Day' in memory of former Fermanagh player and manager Hugh McCabe, who died last year aged 62.

As well as Mitzi, other animals have been showing their support for the Fermanagh team. One Twitter user yesterday shared pictures of cows in Donagh village sprayed in green lettering of players' names.

Celebrities including country star Nathan Carter and actor Adrian Dunbar as well as stars from other sports have also declared their support for the Fermanagh men.

One fan shared a selfie video on Twitter in which former Ireland and Ulster rugby star Stephen Ferris gave the Fermanagh team a hearty, "Come on Fermanagh, let's go!"

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