BY JOHN HUGHES
You feel there won’t be too many teams which manage to stop Donegal raising green flags for goals over the rest of this championship, but that thought isn’t offering much consolation to Fermanagh’s rugged centre back James McMahon in the immediate aftermath of a hard fought defeat to Donegal.
“It’s the end of the road in another Ulster championship campaign and it’s a tough one to take,” said the Roslea star.
“In the next couple of hours and the morning it will only get tougher. There’s a big build up to the game and you’re looking forward to it and when you come out on the wrong side of the result it’s a massive downer.
“We went in fully confident of being able to turn them over. It was hugely disappointing.”
At the break the mood must have been much better. Fermanagh were competing well in every sector of the pitch and only trailed by a point at the interval.
“We were a point down at half time and we felt we hadn’t played overly well,” said McMahon.
“We made a couple of mistakes going forward. We dropped a couple of balls short. I know I gifted them a point from a short free and against teams like that you can’t just give them gifts.
“But, again, going in at half-time only a point down having not played particularly well or really opened up, we felt we were right in contention and could take it the distance.”
Indeed Fermanagh might well have taken this the distance had they managed to convert a few decent scoring chances when the game was really in the melting pot.
McMahon acknowledges that, but insisted all sectors of team came out of the game with a few questions to answer.
“[Conall Jones’s free dropped short]. That would have got it back to 10-9 at that stage. They went down the field and made it 11-8. These things happen and could happen to anyone. Conall kicked a great free from the right just before that, a real pressure free as well. There’s instances like that all over the field, like I say, I gave away one going to pick the ball off the ground in the first half. Rookie mistake. The ball that bounced and they got a point. Rookie mistake. All those in- stances, once they add up it becomes really critical.
“That’s the difference against a top side against Donegal.”
Danny Teague also had a glimmer of goal chance which would have lev- elled the game up with two minutes of normal time left. McMahon says Fermanagh went into the game knowing they would have to hit the net if they were to have a chance of toppling the Ulster champions.
“Any half goal chance you get against top teams you need to be taking. We probably felt we needed a goal or two to win the game. Credit to them, we never really created a whole pile of chances. That was one of them though, I don’t know how they scrambled back and got it away. Against the top teams you need to be taking those to give yourself a chance.”
It’s the back door now for Fermanagh. While McMahon is struggling to come to terms with exiting the race for Ulster at the first hurdle, he remains convinced this side are well capable of enjoying a long championship summer yet.
“We felt coming into this game that we are a serious team, capable of competing at the top level. One defeat doesn’t change that. We still have a serious group of lads and I think some of the younger lads today were a credit the way they stood up and lead the thing. “The likes of Jonny Cassidy, Ultan Kelm, Ciaran Corrigan. We have serious players throughout the team and one result doesn’t change that. For us and the future of Fermanagh football we feel we really have to knuckle down now and go on a run.
“You look at Monaghan last year after we beat them. They went on a run and ended up in an All-Ireland semi-final. If we get that far it would be great, but we really want to get as far as the super eights. It would be a great experience, one which would bring us on to build for next year and to push on to Division 1, because that’s where we need to be. We’re not throwing in the towel just like that.”