Derrygonnelly go fourth with optimism into Ulster Club SFC - Ryan Jones
THE prepared ‘Derrygonnelly Harps four in a row’ signs had been handed out but team captain Ryan Jones insisted that another Fermanagh triumph was not taken for granted, nor regarded with any less affection than the previous three.
“I suppose a lot of people will focus in on the whole four in a row thing and, I am not going to lie, it was on our minds. But at the same time, it was just about winning another Championship and you cannot beat that feeling…The fourth one, it's still as sweet as the first one.”
Having swatted aside St Joseph’s, Ederney, by 12 points in the Erne County decider, the Harps will now turn their sights to Ulster, even if Jones says – somewhat unconvincingly – that their focus had only been on Fermanagh and that fourth consecutive title:
“To be honest, we didn't look any further than Roslea in the first game and then Ederney in the final.
“But at the same time we want to challenge ourselves, we want to try and see how we are able to do against the so-called bigger teams and we have now four in a row, so it is up to us lads to step it up and really compete on that Ulster stage.”
Last year Derrygonnelly came very close to becoming the first Fermanagh side in an Ulster Club SFC final since Enniskillen in 2002, a time when the Gaels were dominant ‘domestically’.
Jones agreed that a run of collecting the New York Cup is probably required for any club from the Erne County to be able to make an impression on the provincial scene:
“In Fermanagh club football, you need to put a few Championship wins together to get that belief, among the young guys especially, that we are as good as anybody in Ulster.
“We were unlucky in the first couple of years, we met quality opposition in Slaughtneil, but last year against Cavan Gaels we conceded five goals [in the semi-final replay] and you are not going to win too many games doing that.
“But we will get our heads down now. We will enjoy tonight, and then in three weeks' time we are playing the Monaghan champions which will be no easy task, but those are the games you want to be playing in.”
Holders Scotstown or Ballybay will provide the Harps’ next Championship opponents, in the Ulster Club preliminary round, and Derrygonnelly can size them up in the Monaghan final next weekend acknowledged Jones:
“I would know a lot of their players. Monaghan is only down the road, we played against a lot of them at county level.
“Without doubt we will go down and watch it. We will try to plot and plan; you have to. You can't really go into that stage and play completely off-the-cuff.”
Jones helped Fermanagh win their last inter-county meeting with Monaghan, this year’s Ulster semi-final, but Donegal won the provincial decider comfortably:
“The Ulster final itself, of course it was disappointing, but in your career you are going to have highs and lows like that - and there are six guys here playing for Derrygonnelly that were involved in that Ulster final in one way or another.
“We said we really wanted to go back to the club scene and push the thing on. I suppose when you get Championship victories like this, it's not too bad. You are glad you put the head down.
“I suppose any Fermanagh club in an Ulster campaign will be underdogs. There is no point in trying to kid ourselves here…whether it is Scotstown or Ballybay.
“But look, we feel we have a good strong team, we have plenty of county players and other guys, really talented club players and if we sit down over the next three weeks and give it the time, who knows what can happen?”