By Michael McMullan
FERMANAGH champions Kinawley are preparing to take on Steelstown in this weekend’s Ulster intermediate final.
The Derry side were comfortable winners over St Eunan’s Letterkenny and St Brigid’s Belfast, while the Erne side had to beat a tough Derrygonnelly team in the Fermanagh final, and then testing clashes with Scotstown, Downpatrick and Trillick.
Manager Adrian Diver said that the Derrygonnelly clash was a testing one, particularly as they had not had a semi-final game because they had received a bye through the semi-finals due to a bereavement in Aughadrumsee.
“We needed extra time and won by a point,” he said.
“It was really tough, a proper battle. We were put through to the final and that wasn’t ideal. Ourselves and Derrygonnelly have being going toe to toe for a few years.”
Kinawley lost the league clash by two points earlier in the season, but turned the tables in the league final. It all pointed towards a championship final that would go down to the wire.
“They were a point up and deep into injury time,” Diver explains. “We had a great goal chance that went wide. I thought that was it, that it was all over for us.”
From a mishit Derrygonnelly kick-out, Kinawley were able to eke out a draw and won after extra time.
“Sometimes when you come back from the death like that it does have a galvanising effect,” he said.
Diver, a native of Gaoth Dobhair, spent 20 years in Scotland and moved back to Fermanagh where his wife hails from.
“Her cousin Joanne (Doonan) plays for them and she said they were looking for someone to coach the team,” Diver points out.
After their manager stepped down, Diver threw his hat in the ring and they are again back challenging for an Ulster title.
“We were sluggish in the first half against Scotstown in the first round and it took us a long time to get going, so there was probably a hangover after the county final,” he said.
A more polished second-half performance shot them into an away clash against Downpatrick. With little known about their youthful opponents, Kinawley’s experience stood to them.
“We felt with the girls having played in a couple of Ulster finals, we were a bit more physical and able to take our scores at the right time.”
It took a gritty hour against Trillick to set up this weekend’s final pairing and Diver has been scouring the internet for nuggets on the Derry champions.
“They have a few games up on YouTube and they look good,” he said.
“They are strong all over the park and they are fit. Whoever win on Saturday will have deserved it.”