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Harps out to have a big impact on Ulster, says Ryan

High five: Derrygonnelly ace Ryan Jones celebrates
fifth straight county title with assistant boss Brendan Rasdale
High five: Derrygonnelly ace Ryan Jones celebrates fifth straight county title with assistant boss Brendan Rasdale
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

One of the first items in Ryan 'Ricey' McMenamin's in-tray as the new Fermanagh manager will be how to manage his sizeable contingent of Derrygonnelly Harps players, after they won their fifth consecutive county title on Sunday with victory over Roslea.

Captain Ryan Jones will enter his 10th season with Fermanagh once his involvement with the club comes to an end, and the 28-year-old pharmacist is hoping for some latitude that wasn't there in the last two pre-seasons under Rory Gallagher.

"Obviously we have won the last couple of Championships and Rory wanted the shoulder to the wheel from the first training session really," said Jones.

"I would like a bit of a break because it is hard to keep it going and driving on. Pre-season, it is tough going.

"But we will sit down and have a bit of a chat. That's the thing about Ricey, he is approachable and understanding. I am sure we will come to some sort of an agreement."

Jones is pleased with the appointment and how briskly the county board took care of business.

Gallagher announced that he would be leaving in late July, and less than a month later his former assistant was promoted to the top job.

"Rory did a lot of good work over the last two years and Ricey has been involved there and brought a lot to the table as well," said Jones.

"So we want to build on that few years of work, and it is important to make the changeover smooth and Ricey will definitely be able to do that.

"We also have a good backroom team. Joe McMahon has good pedigree, Paul McIver as well, and a couple of the lads who were involved last year are staying around.

"I think it is a good appointment, and after the Ulster Club it is back to the county scene again and we want to push on."

Derrygonnelly will meet whoever comes out of Antrim on October 20 at Belfast's Corrigan Park. Erin's Own Cargin beat St Gall's in one semi-final over the weekend, while Portglenone have taken Lamh Dhearg to a replay.

"I'll be honest, we hadn't even thought of Ulster," said Jones.

"We take it one game at a time. We have won a Championship and we will enjoy it."

In 2017 they took Cavan Gaels to a replay and last year lost out to Scotstown in the first round. They have considerable experience of meeting the top teams, with two defeats to Slaughtneil and a solitary win over Armagh Harps.

"Of course, we would like to get a win or two under our belts in the Ulster campaign. Two years ago we got to the semi-final and were beaten after a replay," Jones added.

"We would definitely like to get back to that stage, but it is all about the Antrim champions first and we have got to push on to the next level.

"We have to represent Fermanagh as best we can. We have a pretty good team and I think we can do that."

Jones explained that this Championship was possibly the hardest to win for his side, after numerous injuries and unavailability thinned out the playing resources.

"Paul Ward was injured, Gary McKenna is away, Denis Greene, Ryan McGovern picked up an injury at the start of the year. We have also had a lot of panel players that would have been pushing those boys on," explained Jones.

"They are all satisfying. We haven't talked too much about five in a row, I suppose we leave that to the supporters and all that.

It was all about winning a Championship once we got to this stage. It was about getting over the line and the rest will look after itself.

"Us and Roslea have been battering it out for 10 years or so. So yeah, we are just happy to get over the line."

He also paid tribute to the community effort that is Derrygonnelly.

"Everyone puts their shoulder to the wheel and we have great facilities out there. It's no secret that it was built by all the members. We have two fabulous pitches. It allows us to be the best that we can be. Anything we ask for we get," he added.

"It's not like we are looking for this and that all the time, but we have a great team there and the club drives on together.

"There is no individual within Derrygonnelly, it is a collective unit."

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