Donnelly ready for formidable challenge

By Katrina Brennan

TWENTY-SIX years ago, as a 19-year-old, Kieran Donnelly made his Ulster Championship debut for Fermanagh against Tyrone. The Brookeborough man lined out at wing half-forward that day but after helping keep the game competitive for a large part, they succumbed to a fairly heavy Tyrone beating down in Healy Park.

Memories of defeats at the hands of Tyrone are all too commonplace for Fermanagh players and their supporters. This Saturday night, it’s a chance to change that narrative.

People can write Fermanagh off ‘til the cows come home but that won’t impact on the Fermanagh manager’s mindset as he prepares for what he describes as “just another game”.

“You have to believe that you can (win) and that you can be competitive. You have to concentrate on your own strengths and have that confidence that you can bring your ‘A’ game and maximise yourself on the day.

“There’s no doubt they’re favourites and the fact they are All-Ireland champions is unique and the fact they are coming to your back door.

“They’re like any team, they will have their weaknesses and we just have to simply keep possession and not give it away at key times and maximise our chances. It is a simple game, all the stats prove it – the team that converts their possession count to scores and gives away the least ball wins the game.

“Hopefully it’s enough to be in the hunt with them.

“The fact then we have home advantage will give you that wee extra boost.”

Donnelly says he “should have everybody available” for selection on Saturday evening with the return from injury of his captain Declan McCusker and midfielder Joe McDade. With the work in training almost complete now, Donnelly knows the task ahead is massive and they have been working on some key areas in the last few weeks to overcome that;

“You always get a natural lift in terms of the excitement and the buzz of it, never more so then when it’s going to be Tyrone.

“We’ve been trying to establish areas where we felt we need to work on from the league, which will be more prominent against the likes of Tyrone with their firepower and being very defensively secure and focused on our concentration. Against teams in Division One that always has to go up a notch anyway.

“We’re aware Tyrone will come at us very aggressively and they’ve loads of pace all over the team.

“We know they’re a very formidable team and probably coming into form at the right time from their end. Our main focus has been looking at their key strengths and how we can negate them.”

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