Ulster Senior Club Championship preliminary round
Derrygonnelly Harps (Fermanagh) v Cargin (Antrim)
Sunday, Corrigan Park, 2.30pm
STEPHEN McGullion can boast having enough Fermanagh Senior Championship medals to last a life-time – so why not make his mark on the provincial stage?
McGullion was still only 19 when he scored four points from play against Roslea in the Fermanagh SFC final back in 2015, but that was only the start of a magical journey for the talented forward.
He’s been around for each of Derrygonnelly’s championship wins over the last five years, but taking Cavan Gaels to a semi-final replay in 2017 has been the height of their achievements in Ulster.
McGullion, who was speaking at the launch of the Ulster Championship on Monday night in Garvaghey, is still hopeful that they’ll get up and running in Sunday’s preliminary round tie against Cargin.
“Over the last five years we feel like we’ve been getting better and better. We played Slaughtneil in 2015 and 2016, and then got to the semi-final in 2017 before being beaten by Scotstown last year, but we feel like boys are still improving and we’re keen to make a real impact in Ulster.”
“We always want to make an impression and if it doesn’t happen we take a step back and give it our best in Fermanagh and take it from there. There’s no arrogance, we try to take it a game at a time and give Ulster our best shot if we get there.”
Cargin may or may not be running on empty after their two-game saga against Lamh Dhearg, but Derrygonnelly have been keeping themselves busy, winning the league title in the last few weeks and pushing themselves to the limit in training.
McGullion commented: “There’s no better way than getting good hard games under your belt. We’ve had our league semi-final and final so we have been playing games – just not to the same intensity as Cargin. They showed great character to come through against Lamh Dhearg so it won’t be easy.”
The danger is however, that Derrygonnelly could still be caught cold against the Antrim champions, but they should be experienced enough by now to avoid falling into that trap. They’re training hard, and their league final victory over Ederney was a tough battle in brutal conditions.
“Obviously we’ve great experience in the team with a lot of county boys. We know ourselves what we need to be doing. We try to push ourselves on in training every night and everyone knows their position isn’t safe. We’re trying to drive ourselves on and we feel like we can.”
Derrygonnelly have kept things in-house throughout their drive-for-five; Martin Greene was at the helm in the first three years, and Sean Flanagan and Brendan Rasdale have kept the show on the road since being appointed two years ago. They’re both gentlemen, but they have a keen managerial eye as well.
“Martin was a great manager and did loads for the club, and then the boys have come in and driven the thing on even further if anything. Brendan always keeps the training fresh and is up to date with the latest methods, and Sean is just a legend of the club. They’re great lads and I couldn’t talk highly enough of them.”
The Ulster Champions is a refreshing change of scenery if nothing else for the Harps considering there are only eight contenders for the senior championship in Fermanagh.
“That’s it , If you want to improve you have to play the best teams. We’ve experience of playing Slaughtneil, and last year we came up against Scotstown who are littered with county players.”