GAA Football

Fermanagh captain Donnelly determined to finish job in Ulster Final

Eoin Donnelly (left) savoured Fermanagh's stunning victory over Monaghan yesterday Picture by Philip Walsh

Ulster Senior Football Championship semi-final: Fermanagh 1-8 Monaghan 0-10

TALK about a finish, talk about rising to the occasion – and Fermanagh folk will recall this incredible victory for years to come.

Captain and goalscorer Eoin Donnelly was happy to talk to anyone about the finish too, having provided the match-deciding score in the first minute of added time, but he was also adamant that there’s more finishing to be done before the end of this month.

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The outpouring of relief, of joy, of green-clad supporters pouring onto the pitch in their thousands, was entirely understandable, and the Coa clubman shared that thrill with a broad smile on his face.

Yet for all the delight at bridging a 10-year gap to reach an Ulster Final, Donnelly wants to be the first Fermanagh man ever to lift the Anglo-Celt Cup in triumph:

“It’s great to get into the final – but we got there in ’08 and we didn’t get the job done, so that will be the full focus over the next three weeks…

“We were completely written off but I can see why – Monaghan are a top class side with high expectations, and they were probably favourites to win Ulster after they took Tyrone out the last day.

“We’ll enjoy it but we’ll work hard. We’re not going there to make up the numbers… We need to finish the job.

“We’re a side that thinks we should be in Ulster Finals, we should be able to compete, and we showed that there today.”

The resonance of memories from a decade ago rang strong. The same venue, a goal from an unlikely scorer, and Donnelly remembered that occasion well, Fermanagh reaching the final for the first time since 1982 by shocking Derry:

“I was [there in ’08], I was on the pitch afterwards, running about like an eejit. They had a bit longer to hold on it than we did…

“It was strange the way it panned out, it was very similar to that day in ’08 when Barry [Owens] flicked it to the net.

“I really don’t remember too much about it – the ball came in and I heard a shout from the ’keeper, but thankfully I got a hand to it.

“It could easily have gone over the bar, I could have been clattered and the ball went out, but thankfully we were on the right side of it, the luck was in our favour.”

The Ernemen earned any fortune going due to their immense effort in searing heat, including finishing the game with 14 men after losing Ruairi Corrigan to a black card having already used all six subs.

The skipper avoided turning from hero to villain, kicking a late chance into Monaghan ’keeper Rory Beggan’s hands, but was able to grin about that as the Farneymen could not turn that late possession into an equalising or winning score: “Unfortunately I nearly threw it away at the end, dropping that one short…”

However, evidently it was to be Fermanagh’s day when Monaghan’s star forward Conor McManus finally worked himself into space with seconds remaining – but sent his shot across the face of goal and wide.

Donnelly paid tribute to his team’s full-back Che Cullen, who had marked the Clontibret man so closely up to that point: “In fairness to Che, he stuck with him all day, didn’t give him an inch. Conor wasn’t getting many easy chances and that was maybe the difference in the end.”

It was a fantastic overall team effort, though, in testing conditions, as Donnelly acknowledged:

“It was, in serious heat on a big field against a top class side – that’s a given, you have to work hard. But the way it panned out, we knew we had it in the legs if we played well enough to limit Monaghan’s scores, we knew we’d hang on in there and be in with a shout.

“It was never going to be easy. We were never going to get to the final unless we absolutely emptied the tank. The boys put in a huge effort.

“We probably made hard work of it by not scoring for so long in the second half, but that’s something to work on.

“In years gone by Monaghan have been able to roll boys off the bench and kick on in the second half – but thankfully we were able to hold out in the second half.”

Only due to their heroic captain holding out his hand. Eoin Donnelly could put himself in a unique position on June 24, but he knows he’s part of a greater collective effort:

“Even just to play for Fermanagh, I’m proud, and the club are proud of me for being there, and all the lads that have represented Fermanagh from Coa. It’s a small club, we all stick together, it’s a small wee community, it is great.”

Those words could apply to the county. The task now is to defeat Donegal or Down in the Ulster Final; that’s the finish Fermanagh and Donnelly really want to talk about.

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