Kieran Donnelly taking positives from Fermanagh’s second-half performance

The Erne boss says his side will go hard at the Tailteann Cup after their Ulster Championship exit

Kieran Donnelly
Fermanagh manager Kieran Donnelly at Brewster Park. Picture: Philip Walsh

Ulster SFC quarter-final

Fermanagh 0-9 Armagh 3-11

DESPITE his side suffering an 11-point defeat to Armagh, Fermanagh manager Kieran Donnelly was pleased with the resilience the Ernemen showed, especially after the turnaround.

Ultan Kelm’s 12th-minute black card for a deliberate pull down on Andrew Murnin proved to be a vital moment in the game as Armagh rattled the net twice during that 10-minute spell when they had the extra man.

The Orchard County claimed a third major before the short whistle sounded and carried an 11-point lead into the half time break.

The two teams were matched score for score in the second period, which was a positive that Donnelly focused on.

There were a handful of players that also caught the eye of the Fermanagh boss and left Brewster Park with their heads held high, including the deadly duo of Lee and Che Cullen at the back and Fermanagh top scorer Fionan O’Brien, who finished with 0-3 from play.

“In the second half it was seven all in scores, so we have to focus on that, and I did think the Cullens were our usual leaders and Fionan O’Brien was exceptional at times as well,” said Donnelly after the game.

“We’re a young squad and we’re trying to evolve too so we have to bring those positives into the Tailteann Cup.

“We noticed that from 2018 (when Fermanagh and Armagh last met in the championship), Armagh had 11 starters today and from the 2018 team we had only five, so it shows you the big turnaround, and we’re a small county, that we’ve had in the past number of years.

“But that’s experience for our players and mental resilience at county level is a massive thing and when Armagh were so far ahead at half-time, you have two ways of going. You start forcing shots or you keep playing to a system and I felt that we kept playing to a system.

“That’s a tremendous strength from our squad that they were able to show that resilience in a Championship environment and just to continue to bring that sort of energy to the game and I felt we did that.”

The Tailteann Cup will be Fermanagh’s main focus now and they’ll hope to improve on last year’s record when they were knocked out of the second-tier competition by Laois at the preliminary quarter-final stage.

While Fermanagh were fully intent on delivering an upset against Kieran McGeeney’s side, Donnelly did admit that he had planned for “every eventuality” and has a programme in place ahead of the Tailteann Cup.

Despite suffering relegation from Division Two having just earned promotion last season, Donnelly is determined to take the positives from their 2024 campaign so far and carry it into the next stage of their year.

“My job I suppose is to plan for every eventuality, so we’ll be taking no time off (between now and the start of the Tailteann Cup). We enjoy being together as a squad, we feel we had a positive League in a strange sort of way.

“Our performance levels have been extremely high, and we have three challenge games lined up and we intend to go into the next stage of our competition, which is going to be the Tailteann Cup, with a positive mindset and we’ll just look to win a Championship game. We’ll take it game by game and that’s all we can do.”