GAA Football

Fermanagh midfielder Ryan Jones relishes 'special day' as Ernemen look forward to Ulster final

Ryan Jones and Eoin Donnelly, a formidable midfield pair, combined for Fermanagh's winning goal
Andy Watters

DRENCHED in sweat and smiling from ear to ear like the ecstatic fans who celebrated with him on the Healy Park pitch last Sunday, Ryan Jones savoured the “special win” over favourites Monaghan in Omagh.

Jones secured his place on future Fermanagh GAA highlights reels when, with the game in injury-time and the Ernemen two points behind, he spotted Eoin Donnelly lurking in the Monaghan square and instinctively launched the ball accurately towards him.

Almost inevitably, Donnelly leapt highest and punched it into the net. Fermanagh led by a point and they held on to win a place in the Ulster final for only the fifth time in their history.

“It’s going to be a famous win,” said Derrygonnelly clubman Jones.

“We haven’t been in an Ulster final since 2008 and not too many, if anybody, gave us a chance today.

“But inside the team we knew we had trained hard, we set up pretty well. Rory (Gallagher) and the boys gave us a fighting chance and the belief was there to the very end. Monaghan came back at us but we were able to turn it.

“Tomas (Corrigan) nailed a free after I was fouled and then we got the goal. It’s unbelievable and you can see that everybody is over the moon.

“It’s a special, special moment, a special day and I hope everybody really cherishes this because it was a special win.”

He added: “We’ll enjoy this because you have to enjoy days like this.

“Going into the Ulster final will definitely be another step up. There’s areas we need to improve on, there’s no doubt about that but we’re delighted to get there.”

After leading by two points at the interval, Fermanagh hung on gamely throughout the second half, but Monaghan had reeled them in and scrapped their way into a two-point lead when Jones got on the end of James McMahon’s run out of defence.

“I knew we needed a goal and I saw Eoin drifting inside,” he explained.

“I just thought ‘I’ll land this in on top of him’ because he’s a big man and if gets anything to it at all it’ll be in the back of the net.

“We weren’t going to do all the training we’ve done and then lie down at the final moment.

“Monaghan are a serious team and they drove and drove at us right to the end but our boys didn’t lie down. The finish was special.

“It was like Barry Owens’ goal in 2008 – I was here watching it – something similar, he came flying out of nowhere and put it in the back of the net. I’m exhausted, but I’m absolutely delighted, it’s well worth it.”

Fermanagh now face the winners of Sunday’s Down versus Donegal semi-final in Clones in the Ulster final and after going in as underdogs against Armagh and Monaghan, the Ernemen may even be favourites for the decider.

Whatever their odds, training sessions will be intense as the players compete for positions in the team and the squad.

“We have a great panel,” said Jones.

“Boys like Seamie Quigley were on the bench mad to get at it and Rory has done that all year – he has got boys in who aren’t just happy to make the starting 15 or be in the squad, but to really, really push.

“At the end of the day, it was a 21-man effort. In conditions like that, in that heat, no-one’s going to go 70 minutes up and down, up and down…

“You need boys to come in and make a serious impact and our boys did that.”

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