GAA Football

Derry U20 boss Mickey Donnelly know Fermanagh will be tough test

Derry's Padraig McGrogan with Cormac Smyth of Armagh during the 2019 Ulster Under 20 Football Championship quarter-final match at Owenbeg. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin.

2019 Ulster Under 20 Football Championship semi-final: Friday July 5: 8pm, Healy Park, Omagh: Derry v Fermanagh (Referee: Niall McKenna, Monaghan)

Derry return to the scene of last year's heroics, the sporting arena that played host to their backs-against-the-wall victory over Donegal.

Fast forward 12 months, Derry return to Omagh but their fellow protagonists from that occasion have been dumped from the race at the first hurdle.

Fermanagh have claimed their scalp and will now smell blood despite the Oak Leafers taking the mantle of favourites.

This tag accounted for a slow start in their last four-last game as Down took a 10-point lead before being pegged back at the hands of Ben McCarron and Co.

Mickey Donnelly will hope that his team have got that aforementioned slow start out of their system for this campaign in their hectic first round win against Armagh, just seven days ago.

The Orchard County took a 10-point lead and the situation looked bleak as Ben McCarron and Oisin McWilliams limped off with injury.

Five second-half goals would see them through.

Lorcan McWilliams, Ethan Doherty, Paul Cassidy, Keelan Friel and captain Padraig McGrogan were the men in red and white who flipped the script to claim a 5-12 to 2-13 victory.

Derry kicked 14 wides over the course of their first round game and this is something irked Donnelly in the first round, but something that has plus points and negative points for the Derry boss.

“We have done an awful lot of work on finishing and wouldn’t have knew that from the first-half last week,'' he said.

“The concern at half-time was the amount of scoring opportunities we were creating but we were leaving behind.

“We had 16 shots in the first-half and to have so many wides is desperate.

“Lorcan McWilliams had a few but he kept going and he bagged the goal.

“Character can be measured in many ways, but he stood up and bagged a goal like that to pull us back into the game.”

That aforementioned work on finishing and the creation of goal-scoring opportunities paid off with those five second half goals: “We have worked incredibly hard at trying to create goal-scoring opportunities and I supposed that paid off in the second half.”

Tonight's opponents sent shockwaves through the competition by dumping the pre-tournament favourites from the race at the first hurdle.

Fergal McGovern was the hero for the Ernesiders, kicking two injury-time points to seal a famous victory in a grandstand finish.

Darragh McGurn was the other name that shone from the Fermanagh team-sheet for his scoring exploits, it is likely that Padraig McGrogan will be tasked with the man marking duties once again.

Aghaloo clubman Donnelly has led his club to 11 straight victories was quick to compare the victory to last year's comeback win over the Mourne men in looking ahead to the last-four clash.

“That’s why we are involved in football, the excitement of it.'' he added.

“From the low of going 2-10 to 0-6 down to the high of getting ahead.

“We are going to test our squad to the ultimate against Fermanagh now but someone else will get an opportunity now and I’m sure they will be very eager to take it.

“I’m sure they will be mad for tar at the weekend.”

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