The last time Derrygonnelly stepped out against Tyrone opponents in the Ulster Club competition was back in 2019 and what an occasion that was. The Harps edged Trillick 6-5, in a dramatic penalty shootout in Brewster Park, after Conall Jones’ extra time equaliser forced the game to spot kicks.
The Harps went on to play Kilcoo in the semi final that year and after a hard fought encounter, the Mourne men took the win in the Athletic Grounds, 1-08 to 0-09. The Magpies went on to win Ulster and better still, booked their place in an All Ireland final which they ultimately lost to Galway and Connacht champions, Corofin.
Fast forward two years and the Harps are preparing to play the Tyrone champions once again, this time in the Ulster quarter final and it’s Dromore that provide the sturdy opposition on this occasion.
With Tyrone All Ireland winner and Dromore club man Colm McCullagh at the helm, the St Dympna’s outfit has come through a tough county championship, beating Ardboe, Eglish, 2020 runners up Trillick and reigning champions Dungannon before being crowned kingpins in the O’Neill county by beating Coalisland in the final.
Derrygonnelly Harps manager, Mick Glynn is under no illusion of the task at hand, this Saturday afternoon.
“They’re a very good team, we’ve watched videos of them. Any team that comes out of Tyrone are very strong, to win their own championship. It will be a big challenge for us but hopefully we will rise to it.”
After coming through Fermanagh, forging wins over Ederney and Kinawley in replays and then beating Enniskillen Gaels in the final, Glynn knows that anything below their best will see the Fermanagh champions leaving Carrickmore on Saturday with just Christmas to look forward to, rather than a Ulster semi final to boot.
“We had five tough games in Fermanagh and I would say, in none of the five games did we play to our potential but if we are to have any chance on Saturday we are going to have to put in a top notch performance. Anything less won’t be good enough. We have experience of being in Ulster, it’s a different level, there’s no forgiveness for mistakes, you are punished. We just have to cut out the mistakes and put in a big performance.”
Derrygonnelly kicked 11 wides in the county final and scored 2-08. That percentage return is one element the Harps will look to improve upon this weekend.
Dromore are back in the Ulster Club competition for the first time in ten years. A long time for a club that has been in the upper echelongs of Tyrone football. With two county players in their ranks, Niall Sludden and Peter Teague as well as a host of other stars, most notably Tyrone championship top scorer Emmett McNabb, Dromore will be favourites going into this weekend’s match.
“They were always a top team and they have done consistently well in the league in Tyrone and have won that on a number of occasions and their championship defeats were narrow margins. On top of that they won the Ulster under 21 club championship a couple of years ago and they are a formidable opposition” says Glynn.
Derrygonnelly has declared a clean bill of health for the quarter final meeting and if they can turn it on for the full 60 minutes, who knows what could happen.
“We feel we can perform at that level and it’ll be on the day who puts in the better performance. We would be hopeful our boys will step up and get a win.
“Things have been going well in training. We celebrated after winning the championship but we knuckled down the last few days and preparations are going well.”
The all ticket game, will be played in Carrickmore due to Healy Park being otherwise engaged with a festive Winter Wonderland taking place. The 86 mile round trip would be made all the easier for Harps supporters if they were looking forward to a semi final against the winners of Creggan and Clann Éireann, late on Saturday afternoon.
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