GAA Football

Third time lucky for Enniskillen Gaels? Derrygonnelly Harps hold the aces in Fermanagh senior championship final

Fermanagh star Shane McGullion could be a match-winner for Derrygonnelly Harps in tomorrow's Fermanagh SFC final. Pic Philip Walsh.

Mannok Fermanagh Senior Football Championship final: Derrygonnelly Harps v Enniskillen Gaels (tomorrow, 3pm, Brewster Park)

WILL it be third time lucky for underdogs Enniskillen Gaels when Fermanagh’s form teams meet in tomorrow’s decider?

The Gaels have already come off second best against country cousins Derrygonnelly Harps twice this season. The Harps won the first league meeting 1-12 to 2-6 and then rubberstamped their dominance with a 2-9 to 0-8 victory in the subsequent final after they topped the table with eight wins from nine games, four points ahead of their opponents tomorrow who were runners-up.

Both clubs brought that form into the championship and Enniskillen reached their first championship final since 2006 (the last of their 11 titles) thanks to a one-point win over Tempo at the quarter-final stage and a more comfortable 2-9 to 0-7 victory over a Bellnaleck side that had registered the first three points of that semi-final.

Meanwhile, Derrygonnelly avenged their defeat in last year’s final by dethroning Ederney in the quarter-finals. They needed a replay to do that though and their semi-final against Kinawley also required a second meeting which Mick Glynn’s men won 1-12 to 1-5.

Those two games won’t have done Derrygonnelly any harm as they prepare to wrestle back the title they held during their five in-a-row run between 2015 and 2019. However, Enniskillen – intermediate champions last season – have obviously settled quickly into the top flight and manager John Rehill is confident there is better to come from his side tomorrow.

“Derrygonnelly controlled the league games and on Sunday we need to find a bit more directness,” said Rehill.

“They are a big team so they can dominate possession and they’re obviously very well coached with a lot of experience over the last six or seven years.”

If Derrygonnelly are able to win primary ball they have the personnel and the experience to patiently work scores and so the key for Enniskillen will be to disrupt their rhythm and ensure they aren’t allowed to dictate the pace of the game. Up against the most experienced team in the county, the Gaels’ midfield ball-winners Richard O’Callaghan, Brandon Horan and Eoin Beacom will be prepared for a battle with the likes of Stephen McGullion and the Jones brothers Ryan, Conall and Garvan – three of seven players with that surname in a talented Derrygonnelly squad.

“If we perform we have a good chance,” Rehill added.

“But it’s getting it out of the players on the day that counts. We weren’t happy with the first half of the semi-final, the second half gave us encouragement. We controlled possession a bit more and the game was played at our pace.

“On Sunday we can’t afford to sit back and not get 50-50 possession against Derrygonnelly because they will cause us trouble. We are probably a better team on the attacking side than we are defensively, we are a footballing team and against Derrygonnelly, who pride themselves on the defensive side of the game, we have to cause them more trouble than we have in the two games so far. There is a lot of room for improvement.”

Quick, skilful forward Conor Love will be the go-to man in attack for Enniskillen. Love was one of the stars of the St Michael’s, Enniskillen Hogan Cup-winning team in 2019. He scored two points in the final against Naas CBS but the scorer-in-chief that day was Derrygonnelly’s Micheal Glynn with seven.

Glynn (son of manager Mick) lined out in last year’s county final but he won’t feature tomorrow after signing with Derry City - he is currently on a season-long loan at Dungannon Swifts.

However, Jonathan McGurn – a former county full-forward who scored a first-minute goal on his Fermanagh debut against Monaghan in 2008 – will play his part. McGurn (man of the match against Kerry in the same season) has been reprogrammed as a goalkeeper for the Harps but he has been beaten five times so far in this run.

“We are reasonably confident within ourselves,” said Enniskillen manager Rehill.

“Within football circles generally, Derrygonnelly are strong favourites and we understand that but a lot of our boys will have played against their youth teams and have beaten them. There is no fear factor for us – the boys know they have to perform and it’s going to be difficult but there’s no fear.”

Rain this week means that the Brewster Park ground is heavy and that could count against Enniskillen, the smaller side physically, whose players would relish the hard sod. That’s another hurdle for the Gaels to get over and they go into this final as underdogs but we’ve seen some upsets already this season.

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GAA Football