"We have talent, we have hunger, we're set up well and we've got a belief"
RYAN Jones would be keen on a return to the Fermanagh setup next year but said new boss Kieran Donnelly joked that he didn't want to see him or his Derrygonnelly team-mates for a while yet.
Donnelly was an interested spectator in Carrickmore on Saturday and could only have been impressed by the outstanding Harps' midfielder, whose partnership with Stephen McGullion was the foundation of the Fermanagh champions' win over Dromore.
Jones had opted out last year alongside his brother Conall and Kinawley siblings Tomás and Ruairi Corrigan, but having just turned 31, he feels ready to go back in.
“We'll see how far we get in this but I'd probably like to get back in alright. With work commitments and things, it just didn't work out last year. But we'll not worry about county for the moment,” said Jones.
“Kieran just wished me good luck there. As he said: ‘I hope I don't see you boys for a long time yet'.
“We're in it for another two weeks anyway, we'll see how it goes.”
That they are there for at least another two weeks owes a lot to the Jones brothers.
Ryan ran the game from deep and the Harps looked to him in every attack, while Conall was a handful who produced the big moment when it was needed.
Four minutes into stoppage time, a point down, they had a free that was 50-plus yards out when the angle was considered, into the teeth of the wind.
Ryan had the ball in his hands for a good minute, eyeing it up. The pair of them talked it over before Conall was entrusted with the ball.
His joint-manager Mick Glynn described it as “a once-in-a-lifetime” kick.
“Sometimes if they're a bit further out I might go for them, but Conall has great composure,” said Jones.
“He nailed one at a crucial time two years ago against Trillick to take the game to penalties. He hit a penalty in the county final at a pressure time and put it right into the corner.
“He fancied it and I'm not gonna take it off him. To kick the ball like that, at a crucial time when there was a breeze, outside of the boot, it was an unbelievable score and Conall's got that in his locker.
“It really allowed us to push on in extra-time.”
The way the Ulster Club draw panned out left all four clubs on this side of the draw feeling that a provincial final was a very real possibility.
By virtue of the perceived competitiveness and strength of Tyrone club football, Dromore were the fancy of many.
But Derrygonnelly, who now face Armagh champions Clann Éireann, are the team in that half of the draw with six years of Ulster Club experience under them.
Despite that, they weren't given much chance in too many quarters but while Jones admits they notice the lack of credit, he insists it doesn't bother them.
“That's probably right. I suppose Tyrone club football would be seen as very competitive, naturally. They are the All-Ireland champions so club football is gonna be really competitive too.
“But 2017 we got beat in a semi-final replay after extra-time. 2019, Kilcoo beat us in a really tight game and went on to the All-Ireland final. We've a belief within our own squad.
“I've no problem if people outside our team write us off, it doesn't really matter. It's about us boys that go out on the pitch and deliver.
“We have talent, we have hunger, we're set up well and we've got a belief. Sometimes that can carry you a long way, especially in Ulster Club football.
“Any team on this side of the draw would have thought that [an Ulster final was possible, I'm sure Dromore were thinking that coming in to today, and Creggan and Clann Éireann.
“Naturally the big guns look to be on the other side, Glen, Scotstown, Kilcoo, but sometimes a team can come out of nowhere and they get a run, they get belief. Sometimes it's hard getting out of your own county and teams can go and express themselves a bit more when they do.
“I don't really care what anyone else's thoughts are, as long as our group have their own belief and confidence in their own ability.
“We have a lot of players that are at a really high standard, we have a tight group that trains really hard with great numbers. It doesn't matter what other people say.
“If they write you off, so be it, just go out and prove them wrong. We were probably massive underdogs against Dromore, but we were massive underdogs two years ago against Trillick as well. It's just about going out and delivering.
“It doesn't matter what other people say, it's about the 35 people in the Derrygonnelly changing room.”