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Donnelly has Ulster title in his sights for Scotstown

 

By John Campbell

When Kieran Donnelly took over as Scotstown manager two years ago, he knew he was facing into a huge challenge.

The team had dominated the county championship in 2015 and 2016 and former Fermanagh player Donnelly was left in no doubt that much would be expected from him.

Fast forward to today and Donnelly now finds himself in the provincial spotlight as Scotstown step up their preparations for Sunday week's Ulster club championship final against surprise packet Gaoth Dobhair, having retained the county title since his arrival.

While big questions will undoubtedly be asked of Scotstown by the Donegal champions following their surprise semi-final win over Crossmaglen Rangers last Sunday, nonetheless Donnelly's managerial CV could yet be considerably boosted should his side ascend the provincial throne.

Like Donnelly, current Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke played for Fermanagh and while he is set to extend his watch with the Farney county until 2020 under his present agreement, the real possibility that the position might become vacant then could potentially open another door for Donnelly.

But far from contemplating career advancement, schoolteacher Donnelly is totally focused on overseeing improvements to Scotstown's strategy, particularly their finishing skills, as they gear up to attempt to land what would be their first Ulster crown since 1989.

In fact, the provincial trophy has been only captured on one more occasion since then by a Monaghan club and that was in 1991 when Castleblayney Faughs triumphed.

While the challenge of thrusting Scotstown into the national spotlight clearly stimulates Donnelly, his feet remain on the ground as he mulls over the formidable challenge which he is convinced Gaoth Dobhair will offer at Healy Park, Omagh.

"We know that going into this final we have areas in which we have work to do," states Donnelly. "I feel that that our scoring ratio is not what it should be but this is a very determined and focused group of players.

"We have learned from our games to date in the Ulster championship against Derrygonnelly, Burren and this most recent match against Eoghan Rua, Coleraine but we have more to absorb."

"We have knuckled down and we will be going hard at it up until the final. My big hope is that our shots and scoring returns will improve, but obviously Gaoth Dobhair will not make things easy for us."

A number of Scotstown players, among them Darren and Kieran Hughes, Rory Beggan, Shane Carey and Conor McCarthy are all current members of the Monaghan team and provide invaluable experience for what Donnelly sees as the biggest test of his managerial career to date.

Donnelly was coach to Fermanagh while Peter Canavan was in charge before the latter was succeeded by Peter McGrath. Not surprisingly given his zest and dedication, the affable Donnelly has gained considerably in terms of experience and motivational skills.

"The fact that there is a great hunger within this Scotstown squad tends to make my job that little bit easier in relation to motivating the lads but we are learning all the time," insists Donnelly, "While it's great to be going into an Ulster final, the real test is to ensure that we come out on top."

Meanwhile, Cavan side Mullahoran has requested the Ulster Council to bring forward the throw-in time of the Ulster club intermediate football final against St Enda's, Glengormley on Saturday week at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh to 5.00pm.

The match had been fixed for 6.00 pm but it is understood Mullahoran's request is based on the possibility of extra-time having to be played.

Last Saturday the Mullahoran v Banagher match required not only two phases of extra-time but a first-ever free-kick shoot-out in an Ulster club championship match to determine the outcome of the tie.

This meant the start of the other semi-final on the double bill between St Enda's and Tyrone champions Tattyreagh had to be delayed for an hour, meaning that many supporters did not arrive home until a late hour.

The Mark Harte-Adrian O'Donnell club management pairing is to make its next port of call Clonduff.

The Tyrone duo have achieved considerable success since initally teaming up, their most recent achievement having been with Pomeroy whom they guided to Tyrone and Ulster intermediate football championship glory two years ago.

They left Pomeroy for Derry team Ballinderry Shamrocks the following season, having also managed Roslea Shamrocks (Fermanagh) and Tullylish (Down) previously. Clonduff are hoping to become a championship force again and have several county players in their squad.

Belfast Telegraph

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