Donagh hoping to mark half century with Ulster success
ST PATRICK’S, Donagh were 50 years old last month and one year after being relegated to bottom rung of Fermanagh’s championship ladder, they are stepping back in the right direction.
Members of the club’s committee met with former Derry ladies’ manager Paul Hasson. They liked his style of play and plans for the team. On the other hand, the Ballinascreen man was impressed with the club’s vision.
Vibrant underage teams. Excellent facilities and plans for more. The seeds sown by men like Paddy Foster, their first chairman, have been passed down.
“They painted me the picture of where they were at and what they wanted to do going forward,” Hasson recalls of the club’s desire to get back ‘on the straight and narrow’ again.
“They decided we’d give it a rattle.”
It’s not his first time in Fermanagh, having trained with the Gaels when he was based in Enniskillen for work shortly after the turn of the millennium.
Now, he knows every turn and bump on his two-and-a-half-hour road trip from Ballinascreen. Sharing a car journey with his right-hand man, Declan McGarrity, is a help. The duo can use their time to bounce ideas off each other.
The secret to their success has been the buy-in of the players. From the handful of survivors from their 2008 senior championship winning team, including former Erne star Eamon Maguire, down to the influx of youth.
“There is nothing I have asked them to do all year that they haven’t done,” Hasson said.
Fast forward 12 months and Donagh are unbeaten in all but three of their 19 competitive games in all competitions. Their tally of 40 goals has already grabbed the attention of Kevin O’Neill, manager of Sunday’s opponents Desertmartin, who have conceded a meagre average of four points in their five Derry championship games.
All done with ‘three or four’ former starters on the sideline with long-term injury.
When they return to the roster next season, Donagh will be back rubbing shoulders with the big guns in league and aiming to win a first intermediate championship since 1999.
“That’s a big ask, but that’s where we wanted to be” Hasson said of Division One next year.
For now, it’s about getting a first win in Ulster. Three points each from Oisin McConville and Aaron Kernan saw Crossmaglen push them out at senior level in 2008.
Hasson is well versed in Sunday’s opponents. He laughs at the suggestion of a Marcelo Bielsa type spying mission on their training sessions.
He was schooled in St Colm’s, Draperstown where Desertmartin and Ballinascreen players lined out on the same teams.
“I watched the younger lads in club and schools’ football for years and ‘Screen and Desertmartin have always had an affiliation with each other,” Hasson said.
"I have a wee soft spot from watching them and supporting them over the years.”
All of this will be put to one side at Brewster Park on Sunday.
For Hasson it’s a case of using his knowledge of Desertmartin without overthinking it.
“I want to make sure that I focus on ourselves and sticking to the pattern of play that has helped us so much through this season.”