Derrygonnelly boss Martin Greene hopes for redemptive display against Slaughtneil
IT’S rare the Ulster club series, with its annual changeability, would offer such a rapid shot at redemption as the one Derrygonnelly now have.
When they left Owenbeg in the middle of last October, it brought a harsh curtain down on a deeply emotional fortnight. The tragic death of clubman Damian McGovern led to the postponement of the county final, which the Harps then won a week later against Roslea.
Through the mixture of sorrow and celebration, they had to gather themselves seven days later to play the reigning Ulster club champions. A bridge-and-a-half too far.
The combination of everything, combined with an attitude to go and attack the Derry side, led to the concession of two goals in the opening seven minutes. By the end, Slaughtneil had hit 4-10 from play and won by 18 points.
“It was a step-up but our preparations probably didn’t go as we’d have liked. We had to base them around the Championship final and getting back that Thursday or Friday," says Derrygonnelly manager Martin Greene.
“The first-half, but for one or two mistakes, I thought we competed fairly well. But those mistakes at this level punish you, and they got goals. We kicked eight or nine wides in a spell where we were on top at midfield. In the second-half, we faded away.
“Probably, the emotional and physical baggage of the week we had before didn’t really help the players. That was to be expected. In hindsight, we’d have liked to have worked on a few things on the training pitch that we didn’t have the chance to.”
The beginning of October saw them complete back-to-back triumphs with a narrow win over Erne Gaels, which Greene’s side subsequently backed up by winning the League title two weeks later with a comfortable victory against Teemore.
However, since that game they and Fermanagh have lost the services of Conall Jones for a year. The county midfielder jetted off to Australia for a 12-month break last Wednesday.
“It’s a pity, but we’d like to think we have the strongest squad in Fermanagh and hopefully the players step up to the challenge on Sunday,” said Greene, who’s been without county panellists Tiernan Daly and Eamon McHugh for the entire championship campaign.
“They all want to improve themselves as players and we feel that there’s three or four more can step up on Sunday. We’re trying to develop players to be comfortable.
“I suppose winning the double-double means we are a good team, but we want to compete at Ulster club. We’ve been working hard and we’re trying to right the wrongs of last year. That performance is not what Derrygonnelly’s about.
“We’re trying to be improve to compete at that level. We’ll take in last year’s performance and where we went wrong. We know Slaughtneil’s a step-up in class. From Fermanagh football to Ulster Club at the minute is a big step-up and we’re realistic to that.
"We want to improve. Players and management need to improve to be at that level.”