Derrygonnelly will bid to become the first Fermanagh team to qualify for the Ulster Club SFC Final since 2002 when they take on Cavan champions Cavan Gaels at St Tiernach’s Park on Sunday.
No club from Fermanagh or Cavan has ever won the Ulster Club Football Championship, after Sunday’s game either Derrygonnelly or the Gaels will be just 60 minutes away from creating history not only for themselves but also their county.
Both of these sides put in impressive quarter-final performances, with Derrygonnelly scoring early goals from Paul Ward and Conall Jones to defeat Armagh Harps 2-8 to 1-8. Cavan Gaels had an easier quarter-final victory as they dispatched Lámh Dhearg, 1-19 to 0-10 with the experienced Martin Dunne, Seanie Johnston and Michael Lyng posting 1-13 between them.
Supporters of both clubs will be licking their lips at the prospect of a rare Ulster Final appearance.
Derrygonnelly have just completed a first ever three-in-a-row of Fermanagh titles, while Cavan Gaels secured a 10th Cavan SFC success since the turn of the millennium.
Derrygonnelly managers Martin Greene and Michael Glynn have put in an fine performance in the last three seasons with three club championships and two Division 1 league titles secured in that time.
With club captain, Ryan Jones leading by example on the pitch, the Canon Maguire Park club have been putting in some fantastic performances this season with wins over Erne Gaels, Roslea and Devenish seeing the club claim that historic three-in-a-row.
Derrygonnelly have all the trademarks of a side going places with work rate and commitment high on the agenda of both Greene and Glynn.
They play with a degree of variation going forward which keeps the opposition guessing. A deep squad has been assembled with players like Stephen Jones, Aaron Burke and Aidan McKenna all seeing plenty of game time this season.
The Derrygonnelly defence has plenty of pace about it and they deploy a running game which sees the likes of Dennis Greene and Garvan McGinley linking defence to attack. The loss of Tiarnan Daly is a huge blow to the side, but the form of Michael Jones should see the Fermanagh star a like-for-like replacement at number three.
The tenacity of the Jones brothers provides solid foundations for the side with Ryan, Conall and Garvan all having had hugely impressive Championships to date. Goalkeeper Dermot Feely and attacker Kevin Cassidy bring over 50 years of experience together to the side, while younger players like Gary McKenna, Shane McGullion and Stephen McGullion bring the youthful energy and enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, Cavan Gaels put in the performance of the quarter-finals with a demolition of Antrim champions Lámh Dhearg in Breffni Park.
It has been some season for a Gaels side rejuvenated under Jason O’Reilly. They won every game bar one in league and championship, the exception being a dead-rubber draw with Cootehill in their final league game.
Their average margin of victory in the Championship has been ten points, and included victories over their three major rivals – Castlerahan (five points), Kingscourt (eight points) and Ramor United (ten points).
A notable feature of their play has been ruthlessness in front of goal. Jason O’Reilly was a goal scoring ace in his day and they have very deliberately set about looking for green flags early in games.
32 majors in 18 games, and only three blanks – two against a defensive Castlerahan and the other in that dead-rubber with Cootehill – is a serious attacking record.
But Ciaran Flynn has been the find of the season for the Breffni champions. Largely a reserve forward in the past, he has been moulded into a ‘keeper at the age of 32 and his laser-like restarts have been a massive factor all year.
In defence Barry Fortune has looked comfortable as sweeper while Kevin Meehan may be giving a man-marking role on Paul Ward to curtail the former Fermanagh assassin’s impact on the game.
Cavan Gaels will use the energy of Paul Graham and Robert Maloney-Derham to pull the Derrygonnelly midfield around, while in attack the ability of Seanie Johnston and Martin Dunne to score goals will be a major worry for the Harps.
There isn’t too much to choose between these sides. Both sides have similar personnel, and experience at this stage of the Ulster Club Championship is pretty much zero for both outfits. Both have momentum from their quarter-final wins and that should make an entertaining game.
Ulster Club SFC semi-final
Derrygonnelly v Cavan Gaels
Sunday, Clones, 2pm
Posted: 8:30 pm November 11, 2017