GAA Football

Fermanagh v Donegal - all the analysis ahead of Ulster SFC clash

Ryan McHugh was a thorn in Fermanagh's side during last year's Ulster SFC final in Clones. Picture by Colm O'Reilly
Neil Loughran

KEY BATTLE

Ultan Kelm (Fermanagh) v Ryan McHugh (Donegal)

RYAN McHugh destroyed Fermanagh in last year’s Ulster final, his run opening up the Fermanagh defence for Eoghan Ban Gallagher’s opener before scoring a sublime second himself. Went through three different markers as the Ernemen struggled to get to grips with him, even though Rory Gallagher knows better than anybody the dangers posed by the Kilcar dynamo.

Ultan Kelm made a big impression for Fermanagh through the League, and looks to have been groomed for just this sort of occasion. Tall, strong and athletic, Kelm has a wise head on young shoulders and tackles with the sort of discipline required to try and nullify a player like Ryan McHugh.

If he can break even in this battle, the Ernemen will like their chances – but that is a huge ‘if’.

MAN OF THE MOMENT

Michael Murphy (Donegal)

CAME back into the Tir Chonaill fold towards the end of the League and, unsurprisingly, his return coincided with a major upturn in Donegal’s fortunes.

Brought off the bench after half an hour against Armagh and scored 1-2 in a one-point win, ran the show away in Cork and was simply unplayable in the Division Two final victory against Meath (although the attacking mark was made for him).

Declan Bonner chose to deploy him at full-forward more often than was the case last year, and Murphy showed again what a devastating effect he can have on the edge of the square. On his day there are few, if any, to touch him in terms of all-round star quality.

Michael Murphy was at his brilliant best as Donegal captured the Division Two title by defeating Meath at Croke Park back in April. Picture by Philip Walsh

TEAM TALK

Donegal (probable): S Patton; S McMenamin, N McGee, P McGrath; D O Baoill, L McLoone, E Ban Gallagher; H McFadden, J McGee; F McGlynn, R McHugh, M Langan; J Brennan, P McBrearty, M Murphy

NEIL McGee was brought off the bench just 13 minutes into Donegal’s win over Meath, such were Brendan McCole’s struggles with Mickey Newman, and the experienced Gaoth Dobhair man could come in from the start today. Patrick McBrearty is also expected to make his first start for Donegal in 11 months after returning from long-term injury.

*****************

Fermanagh: T Treacy; J Cassidy, C Cullen, L Cullen; U Kelm, J McMahon, K Connor; E Donnelly, R Jones; R Lyons, A Breen, C Corrigan; D McCusker, C Jones, S Quigley

TOM Treacy returns between the posts having given way to James McGrath for Fermanagh's final League game against Meath. Other than that, Fermanagh line out as expected.

TACTICAL TAKE

Fermanagh

FERMANAGH kept Donegal to 10 points in the League meeting – which they won - back at the end of February, and the aim will be to repeat that feat again tomorrow. If they can contain Donegal to that extent, they’re halfway there.

However, it is a much-changed Tir Chonaill side they will face at Brewster Park – one which includes Michael Murphy and is also set to welcome back the deadly Patrick McBrearty. The Kilcar finisher hasn’t featured for Donegal since suffering a cruciate ligament injury in last year’s Ulster final win over the Ernemen.

Was winning his battle with Mickey Jones before going off in that game, and is likely to come up against Lee Cullen tomorrow. Cullen’s brother, Che, has done pretty well on Murphy in their past encounters and should recommence that battle.

Sean Quigley will find himself up top alone for a fair amount of this game as Fermanagh bid to build patiently from the back in the hope of drawing Donegal onto them.

Considering the firepower they face, Fermanagh will need to be ultra-clinical in front of the posts to have a chance.

Rory Gallagher knows his side will need to contain the substantial threat posed by Donegal in tomorrow's Ulster SFC quarter-final. Picture by Philip Walsh

Donegal

TWO first half goals killed off Fermanagh’s hopes of ending their Ulster final hoodoo last June, and Declan Bonner will know he holds so many of the attacking aces at Brewster Park tomorrow.

The quickness of their movement to get around the mass Erne defence was a joy to behold, and you fancy that the pace of Ryan McHugh, Jamie Brennan and Eoghan Ban Gallagher - allied to the sheer power of Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty - will be too much again.

Defensively Donegal can be got at, as Meath showed in the Division Two final, and it will be interesting to see whether Bonner sticks with Brendan McCole – a regular starter through the League – or goes with the tried and trusted Neil McGee.

The Gaoth Dobhair veteran has tended to hold the upper hand on the burly Roslea man and could get the nod. Murphy, meanwhile, can be expected to drift in and out of the full-forward line all day, taking Che Cullen with him everywhere he goes.

WHO’S THE REF?

Joe McQuillan (Cavan)

THERE has been plenty of talk, for different reasons, about two of Donegal’s main men during recent weeks.

Earlier this month the National Referees’ Committee presented a set of guidelines aimed at curtailing head-high challenges in football and hurling.

Considering some of the treatment meted out to Ryan McHugh through the years, it will be interesting to see if/how these new guidelines affect the approach of referee Joe McQuillan, and of Fermanagh.

McQuillan has plenty of previous with Donegal captain Michael Murphy too, having sent him off three times in the past. After their Division Two final defeat to Donegal, Meath boss Andy McEntee questioned the influence Murphy has on the men in the middle.

WEATHER WATCH?

AS opposed to Ulster final day last year when the glorious June sun was beating down on Arlene Foster’s sunglasses at St Tiernach’s Park, tomorrow looks fairly grey. Predictions are that it will be overcast in Enniskillen, temperatures around the 14 degree mark, with a decent chance of rain.

LAST CHAMPIONSHIP MEETING

2018 Ulster SFC final: Donegal 2-18 Fermanagh 0-12

FIRST half goals from Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Ryan McHugh put paid to Fermanagh’s hopes of a first-ever Ulster title in a one-sided provincial final.

The Ernemen had stunned Armagh and Monaghan en route to the decider but were no match for Declan Bonner’s men, who brought the Anglo-Celt Cup back to the Hills for a ninth time.

Many had predicted a tight affair but the pace of McHugh and Gallagher carved Fermanagh open and Rory Gallagher’s side could find no way back.

The loss of forward Patrick McBrearty to what turned out to be a cruciate ligament injury was the only sour note for the Tir Chonaill men.

LAST 10 IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP

2018 Ulster SFC final: Donegal 2-18 Fermanagh 0-12

2016 Ulster SFC quarter-final: Donegal 2-12 Fermanagh 0-11

2006 All-Ireland qualifiers round four: Fermanagh 0-8 Donegal 0-11

2004 All-Ireland qualifiers round four (Clones): Fermanagh 1-10 Donegal 0-12

2003 Ulster quarter-final: Fermanagh 0-10 Donegal 0-6

2001 All-Ireland qualifiers round one: Fermanagh 1-6 Donegal 0-15

2001 Ulster SFC preliminary round replay: Fermanagh 1-9 Donegal 0-11

2001 Ulster SFC preliminary round: Donegal 1-16 Fermanagh 2-13

2000 Ulster SFC quarter-final: Donegal 0-13 Fermanagh 1-12

1992 Ulster SFC semi-final (Healy Park): Donegal 2-17 Fermanagh 0-7

BETTING BOX

Match odds

Fermanagh 9/2

Draw 11/1

Donegal 1/5

Handicap odds

Fermanagh +5 10/11

Handicap draw (+5) 10/1

Donegal -5 Evs

First goalscorer

P McBrearty 13/2

J Brennan 13/2

S Quigley 8/1

R McHugh 12/1

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