GAA Football

We had to make the most of Tyrone and Monaghan absence says Donegal's Hugh McFadden

Midfielder Hugh McFadden operated in a deeper role than usual during Donegal's Ulster final victory over Fermanagh. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

DONEGAL had to “make the most” of the fact neither Tyrone or Monaghan were contesting Sunday’s Ulster final after overcoming underdogs Fermanagh, according to midfielder Hugh McFadden.

The Killybegs man was involved in 2015 and 2016 as the Tir Chonaill slipped to narrow defeats against the Farneymen and Red Hands in respective provincial deciders, but they proved far too strong for Rory Gallagher’s Ernemen.

Fermanagh were the surprise packages of this year’s Championship having pulled off underdog wins over Armagh and Monaghan, who had earlier taken care of defending champions Tyrone, and came into Sunday’s clash aiming to get their hands on the Anglo-Celt Cup for the first time.

Yet Declan Bonner’s men were determined there would be no fairytale ending to their remarkable story.

“People probably said from the start that we were on the nicer side of the draw, and any year that Tyrone and Monaghan are already knocked out before the final you have to make the most of it,” said McFadden.

“We’ll not hide from it – Tyrone and Monaghan were on the same side as Fermanagh, and everybody always expected one of those two to come through. Give Fermanagh the credit they deserve, they came out of that side of the draw.

“They put in a big performance against Armagh, they came out of Division Three, they put in a big performance against Monaghan, so any team that does that we give them the respect they deserve in preparing for them today.”

That 12-point victory saw Donegal land a first Ulster title since 2014, when Jim McGuinness was still manager, and some of the older campaigners have since been replaced by a dynamic group of emerging young stars.

Heading into the Super 8s, they look to have enough strength in depth to make a big impression as greater challenges lie ahead.

“There were fallow years but I don’t think they were as bad as people made them out to be,” continued McFadden.

“Look, we lost an Ulster Championship by one point to a good Monaghan team in 2015, we lost an Ulster Championship to Tyrone after a humdinger of a game here in 2016.

“Last year unfortunately didn’t go our way, this year we came back. There’s good players in this team and we’re going to hope to build on that in the next few years moving forward.

“We set out our stall when Declan brought us together and our goal was to lift the Anglo Celt. We didn’t look at what happens after.

“We only looked at the life of the Ulster Championship, we’ve done that today. I’m sure Declan has his own plans moving forward to the Super 8s and that process will start now.”

McFadden has been able to roam forward from his midfield berth in earlier Championship games, but operated in a more defensive role on Sunday as Donegal set about closing down the space for Fermanagh.

There was to be no repeat of his goalscoring exploits against Derry therefore but, as he mingled with fans after the final whistle, personal glory couldn’t have been further from his mind.

“I enjoy winning, and I’ll do whatever it takes and whatever my manager asks me to do,” said the 23-year-old.

“The boys out there kicked some great scores out there, my job wasn’t the prettiest, it wasn’t the most exciting but it kept the goals out and ultimately that’s what I was there to do today and I thought it worked.

“They still got a few handy scores but we knew with the likes of Ryan McHugh, Jamie Brennan, Michael Murphy, Eoghan Ban [Gallagher], Paddy McBrearty, Odhran Mac Niallais would be able to get up there to get the scores.”

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