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Greene is hoping veterans can help shatter Derrygonnelly's Ulster jinx

 

By John Campbell

Two 42-year-old golden oldies are in the vanguard of Derrygonnelly Harps' bid to finally come good in the Ulster Club Senior Football Championship.

Manager Martin Greene will look to goalkeeper Dermot Feely and right-full-back Kevin Cassidy - with a combined age of 84 - to inspire their side in a competition in which they have yet to win a match despite having remained as the dominant force in Fermanagh for three years.

"Dermot and Kevin continue to keep themselves in great shape and they share a wonderful attitude," revealed Greene.

"I think they are a tremendous example to younger players because of the way they go about things and discipline themselves. I know they are both very keen to see Derrygonnelly achieve success in Ulster, as indeed are all the other players."

But while Greene has every confidence that his team have gleaned valuable experience from their participation in the flagship provincial competition over the past two years, he believes that Armagh Harps will bring their own cult figure into play when the sides meet on Saturday week.

The meticulous Greene was a more than interested spectator at Sunday's Armagh final in which Armagh Harps overcame Maghery, and left the Athletic Grounds waxing lyrical about goalkeeper Patrick Morrison, who at 31-years-old is viewed as the side's father figure.

"It was one of the best goalkeeping performances I have seen for some time," maintained Greene.

"I thought Morrison's kick-outs were excellent, his handling was superb and the reflex save which he made in the closing moments of the game was absolutely outstanding, a magnificent piece of goalkeeping. It certainly helped his team to close out the game.

"I have been a long-time admirer of Dermot Feely and Kevin Cassidy and I know they are dedicated to producing the goods in the Ulster Club Championship but, just the same, we have to be aware of the size of the challenge we will face."

Morrison's performance, indeed, proved something of a welcome personal bonus given that he had suffered a broken finger and strained hand at different stages of the season and was also overtaken by a serious bowel problem during the summer that necessitated surgery.

His recovery, though, was more rapid than had been anticipated and, although he was in the Armagh squad for the All-Ireland qualifiers against Kildare and Tyrone, he did not start, Blaine Hughes getting the nod between the posts.

But when it was evident that he had recaptured his best form, his influence in the Armagh Harps side became even more pronounced. Yet while Greene acknowledges that Morrison in particular will represent a huge barrier to Derrygonnelly's prospects of more success, he is nonetheless convinced that his side are now well-equipped to make their bid for glory.

The team, which is backboned by the Jones clan, is particularly keen to strike a blow for Fermanagh pride by making an impact in the Ulster Club series.

Brothers Ryan, Garvan and Conal Jones, along with assorted cousins Leigh, Mickey and Stephen who bear the same surname, bring a competitive edge to the team, while the experienced Paul Ward continues to prove the talisman in an attack which can flourish when plied with possession.

"Obviously the average age of our side is a bit higher than might be expected but we have no complaints about that," smiled Greene.

"The important thing is that all the guys mare very focused on trying to bring provincial glory to Fermanagh. We see that as a big challenge and we feel that this could be the year in which we can make our presence felt.

"There is only one certainty about this game and that is that a Harps side will win it!"

Meanwhile, two Ulster players have been included in the Ireland squad for the annual Hurling/Shinty match against Scotland at the weekend.

Alan Grant (Derry) and the emerging John McManus (Down) will link up with players from a number of other counties as Ireland bid to get the better of an experienced Scottish side.

Ulster is also represented in the panel for the U21 international between the two countries with Darragh Cartin (Derry) and Ger Walsh (Antrim) getting the nod.

Cartin has been particularly impressive lately, and his free-taking could bolster Ireland.

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