GAA Football

Barry Fortune bets on a tight Ulster Club semi-final

Kevin Meehan (Cavan Gaels) and Ben Rice (Lamh Dhearg) in action during the Ulster Senior Club Football quarter-final at Kingspan Breffini Park. Pictures by Seamus Loughran.
Kevin Óg Carney

Save a fortune? Keep your money in your pockets.

That's the curt advice from Cavan Gaels centre-back Barry Fortune to any of his club's supporters who may be tempted to put the deeds of their house on the Gaels making it to their first Ulster final appearance since 1977.

Forty years ago, Cavan Gaels competed in their one and only Ulster club SFC final to date. Back then, the twin towers of Fermanagh tyro Peter McGinnity and the irrepressible Andy McCallion (Antrim) helped spirit St. John's to victory over the Breffni champions.

At 24, Gaels' centre-back Barry Fortune aped his colleagues' collective energy at Kingspan Breffni last Sunday as they put Antrim champions Lámh Dhearg to the sword by 1-19 to 0-10. He looked like a man on a mission.

“It's been a long, long time since we did anything in the Ulster club so there's absolutely no reason why we'd be even thinking of playing in a final never mind winning it,” the erstwhile Ulster U21 FC medallist declared.

“Given the record Cavan champions have in the competition, I'm sure Derrygonnelly will be confident of getting to the final just as much as we are. I'm sure they looked at the draw the same as us and fancied it.”

The DCU Accountancy student is good at numbers so it's probably wise to take cognisance of the fact that he reckons “it'll be a 50/50 game in the semi-final”.

The erstwhile Ulster U21 FC medallist is wont to wax lyrical about his team-mates. And while he is a paid-up member of the defenders' union, he fingers two of his colleagues as having been particularly special last Sunday.

“Jelly (Seanie Johnston) and Dunny (Martin Dunne) were on fire and when you have fellas like them shooting five and six points from play, you've always got a chance.

“We were fairly solid at the back and we worked hard around the middle but the two lads up front breed so much confidence into the team when they are playing as well as they are right now.”

And yet while the Gaels posted a very impressive 17 of their 19 points against Lámh Dhearg from open play, the cloud on the silver lining for those who dissected last Sunday's game was the fact that the hosts scored just a single goal over the hour-plus.

The Gaels' profligacy in attempting to cash in on six gilt-edged goal chances at Kingspan Breffni wasn't lost on centre-back Fortune who won Cavan SFC medals in 2014 and last month:

“We came out of the traps really fast and I think we had three good goal chances in the first five minutes alone.

“I think we could have had maybe seven or eight goals by the end of the game but, in fairness, to Lámh Dhearg, their goalkeeper made a couple of very good saves and their backs made a few great blocks.

“We'll definitely have to be more ruthless from here on. Instead of being maybe happy popping some of the chances over the bar, we'll have to get through for more goals.

“They say goals win matches and they probably win championships as well. I suppose it's just a matter of being a wee bit more ambitious closer to goal and sticking the chances away.”

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