GAA Football

The spirit of Peter Jones is driving us on: Derrygonnelly's Conall Jones

Derrygonnelly footballer Conall Jones ahead of tomorrow's AIB Ulster GAA Football Senior Club Championship final against Kilcoo

CONALL Jones is hoping the spirit of Peter Jones will help give the Derrygonnelly boys “another wee push” in tomorrow’s Ulster Club final against favourites Kilcoo at The Athletic Grounds.

Last July, Derrygonnelly and the wider Fermanagh GAA community were plunged into mourning after the former Harps underage coach died in a drowning accident having encountered difficulties in Lough Melvin.

Peter’s sons Leigh and Aaron are two of the mainstays of the Derrygonnelly Harps team who clinched the 2021 Fermanagh senior title and broke new ground by reaching their first-ever provincial final.

The nine-time Erne champions defeated the Tyrone and Armagh champions – Dromore and Clann Eireann – to reach tomorrow’s showpiece decider against the 2019 holders.

Jones, who has proven a match-winner for Derrygonnelly on more than one occasion this season, said that the tragic passing of one of the club’s favourite sons has been the team’s driving force.

“It definitely has,” Jones said, who has hit 1-11 across their two provincial outings.

“All you have to do is look where we are now – we’re in an Ulster final. Peter was a stalwart of the club.

“I’d be very close in age bracket with his son Leigh, and Peter would have had us at underage football. I would have known him very well.

“It’s really driving everyone on in the club, you can see everyone is putting their shoulder to the wheel. And fair play to Leigh and Aaron, I remember when Peter passed away the two boys were out training a week later, so it’s testament to those boys and look where it has got us.

“Hopefully we can give it another wee push, with the help of Peter on Sunday and get over the line.”

Peter Jones’s passing has merely re-affirmed the never-say-die qualities of this current Derrygonnelly team who have won six out of the last seven county championships.

“I think we have great strength and character,” said Jones, the team’s trusted full-forward and free-taker insisted.

“There have been a lot of games throughout the years where we might’ve been dead and buried, or people thought we were dead and buried but we kept driving right to the end.

“Even in the Fermanagh championship there were games we were five or six points down in the second half and we just seem to stick to the game-plan and never give up.

“Even from the start of our championship run in 2015 we’ve shown that never-say-die attitude.”

Jones, along with his elder brother Ryan, took a year out from county duties in 2021 are both keen to put their shoulder to the Fermanagh wheel again, with new manager Kieran Donnelly taking the reins.

Probably the main reason for the younger sibling’s intention to return is the enjoyment he’s getting from playing football this season.

“I’d like to give it another go,” he said. “I’ve put the county on the back burner at the minute, just to try and concentrate on the club but I’d be interested in going back and giving Fermanagh a go again.”

One of the key moments of Derrygonnelly’s season was Jones’s last-gasp equalising free to push their provincial quarter-final with Dromore to extra-time.

With the wind against him and roughly 45 metres from Dromore’s goal, Jones gambled everything by cutting across the ball with the outside of his right foot and finding the target.

“I suppose I was in the zone and I backed myself. I have good confidence in myself that I can nail those opportunities, I’ve got a decent long-range strike. I was more nervous looking back on it than what I was at the time.”

“Looking ahead to this final,” he added, “I don’t think there is any pressure on us, really. I think that Kilcoo are obviously really strong favourites.

“I don’t need to tell anybody of Kilcoo’s standing – they were All-Ireland finalists two years ago. We understand Ulster finals don’t come around very often. This is the club’s first-ever and I think we’re the third team in Fermanagh to reach a final [Roslea Shamrocks and Enniskillen Gaels are the others], so we just want to forget about the occasion, give everything we can and see how we get on. We know we’re up against probably the best team around. If we do our best, we’ll let the outcome look after itself.”

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GAA Football