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Derrygonnelly power into final after early goal blitz proves too much for Clann

Derrygonnelly 3-11 Clann Eireann 1-11


Derrygonnelly Harps’ Eamon McHugh battles with Declan Leathem. Credit: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Derrygonnelly Harps’ Eamon McHugh battles with Declan Leathem. Credit: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Derrygonnelly Harps’ Eamon McHugh battles with Declan Leathem. Credit: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Derrygonnelly became the first Fermanagh club to reach the Ulster Club SFC final since Enniskillen Gaels in 2002 with this success against a battling Clann Eireann of Armagh.

While Derrygonnelly came into this game as favourites, most onlookers were expecting a close contest. Those predictions were blown out of the water in spectacular fashion, however, as the Harps found the net three times in the opening quarter, establishing a 3-2 to 0-1 lead at the first water break.

It was a surreal scoreline; the net rippled for the first time in the eighth minute and Clann Eireann were still reeling from the first blow when they shipped two more in the 11th and 14th minutes to effectively put the game to bed.

The Armagh men were strangely open at the back and an experienced Derrygonnelly outfit, in their sixth Ulster SFC campaign in seven years, identified this and ruthlessly exposed it early on.

The first goal saw Gary McKenna round a defender and unleash a powerful shot, which Eoghan Mulholland did well to save. The rebound fell to Shane McGullion, who palmed home.

From their next attack, Derrygonnelly had registered another major. After a delay as Mulholland was treated for injury, he recovered and drove the kick-out to midfield; Derrygonnelly captain Ryan Jones caught it and returned it with interest for the waiting Conall Jones to punch to the net.

And then came the third three-pointer in succession. This time, Derrygonnelly sliced the Lurgan side open, Michael Jones and Gary McKenna combining to release Shane McGullion, who coolly side-footed home.

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That seemed to be that, although the final quarter did get very interesting as Clann Eireann threw caution to the wind and managed to cut the deficit to four points entering the home stretch to ensure a nervy finale for the Fermanagh side.

Clann had shown that their pace could hurt the Derrygonnelly defence at times and with Stephen McGullion going off on a second yellow card just before the break, the Armagh side dominated midfield in the second half and had ample opportunities. In fact, but for some wayward shooting, they could have been even closer.

And yet there was never really any sense of panic about the winners, who were nerveless in beating Tyrone champions Dromore in extra time in the quarter-final.

Conor Turbitt, who was lively, got Clann off the mark with the first of his six frees and Daniel Magee added one from play as they belatedly woke up. However, Derrygonnelly were at their ease and had the time, space and confidence to land a few classy scores from the likes of Conall Jones and Stephen McGullion, before the latter got his marching orders.

At half-time, it was 3-5 to 0-4. Clann landed the opening two scores of the second half through Conor McConville and Turbitt (free) but a free from Garvan Jones (one of seven Joneses on the starting team) and scores from Conall Jones and Gary McKenna restored the 11-point gap.

The spark which ignited Clann’s revival was a brilliantly-taken goal from Conor McConville just before the second water break. They began to gobble up ball at midfield and strung together quality scores from Paul McKenna, Jack Conlon and a few for Turbitt but they had left themselves too much to do.

Conall Jones scored twice in injury time (one free) to settle the question as Derrygonnelly deservedly eased through to a first ever provincial final.

Clann Eireann: Eoghan Mulholland, Conan O’Carroll, Barr McCambridge, Declan Leathem, Sean McCarthy, Shea Heffron, Adam Kelly, Conor Bell, Tiernan Kelly, Daniel Magee (0-1), Ryan Henderson, Conor McConville (1-1), Dan McCarthy (0-1), Conor Turbitt (0-6, 5f), Aodhan McConville

Subs: Jack Conlon (0-1) for C O’Carroll, Ruairi McDonald for A McConville (both ht), Paul McKenna (0-1) for Bell (37 mins), Oran McCafferty for R Henderson (53), Odhran Downey for Kelly (60)

Derrygonnelly: Jonathan McGurn, Aaron Jones, Tiarnan Daly, Michael Jones, Oisin Smyth, Declan Cassidy, Lee Jones, Stephen McGullion (0-1), Ryan Jones (0-1f), Eamon McHugh (0-1), Garvan Jones (0-1f), Leigh Jones, Shane McGullion (2-0), Conall Jones (1-5, 1f), Gary McKenna (0-2, 1f)

Subs: Rian McGovern for Lee Jones (43 mins), Conor Burns for Leigh Jones (49 mins), Aidan McKenna for Shane McGullion (58), Gareth McGovern for E McHugh (60), Niall Maguire for D Cassidy (60).

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