Fermanagh 2-15 Donegal 2-7
From the Dubai desert to the Fermanagh fog in 36 hours, Jim McGuinness and his Donegal squad came back down to earth with a mild bump in Brewster Park last night.
In freezing fog and treacherous conditions, Fermanagh inflicted a season-opening defeat on a Donegal side which bore no resemblance to the team which romped to All-Ireland glory last September.
"It would’ve been foolish to throw anyone in there and possibly put them in danger after the long flight and trip home yesterday," said McGuinness.
Tyrone ref Martin Sludden deemed conditions playable but as expected, none of the Donegal players who started the All-Ireland final were on show. All that glowed under the lights in Enniskillen were the tanned faces of Donegal trainer Maxi Curran and McGuinness, who returned home from the team holiday in the desert sun just 24 hours earlier.
Fermanagh did their best to give Donegal a warm welcome with a traditional guard of honour for the All-Ireland champions in their first outing of the new season. Six of last year’s squad, including Adrian Hanlon, Marty Boyle and Gary McFadden, lined out alongside five debutantes.
Midfielder Packie Mailey, a former professional with SPL outfit Hibernian, was one of those given a chance to impress McGuinness, who watched most of the match from the stand. The other newcomers in the starting team were defenders Kevin McFadden, Ciaran Cannon and corner-forwards Sean McGarvey and William Gillespie.
Bundoran’s Shane McGowan, back after a lengthy absence, was involved in the first two scores of the game.
His mistake allowed Daryl Kennan to score a goal in the fifth minute but he partially made amends by scoring a fine point a minute later.
After 15 minutes the PA announcer helpfully reminded 1,530 hardy souls — unable to see the scoreboard on the far side of the field due to dense fog — that the score was 1-1 to 0-2.
Chasing a confidence-boosting win, Peter Canavan’s Fermanagh led by 1-6 to 0-4 at the break, Johnny Woods and Marty O’Brien blazing goal chances over the bar.
Derrygonnelly’s Paul Ward had impressed, hitting four points from play.
Donegal started the second half with more urgency but Fermanagh, back training since October, were far sharper and Tomas Corrigan’s 45th minute goal stretched their lead even further.
Donegal didn’t score for 29 minutes either side of half-time, but two goals in two minutes from Adrian Hanlon and Dermot Molloy 10 minutes from the end made it more respectable.
Afterwards McGuinness indicated it could be the opening league match against Kildare next month before any of his All-Ireland champions take to the field. "Just trying to find one player who can add a bit of a value to the thing, that’s what the McKenna Cup is about for us," he said.
Scorers for Fermanagh: D Keenan 1-1 (1f), T Corrigan 1-0, P Ward 0-5 (1f), S Quigley 0-3 (1f), S Lyons, J Woods, M O’Brien, K Connor, J Sherry, M McGrath 0-1 each.
Scorers for Donegal: G McFadden 0-4 (1f), D Molloy 1-1 (f), A Hanlon 1-0, S Griffin 0-1 (f), S McGowan 0-1.
FERMANAGH: C Snow; R McCluskey, A McGuinness, J Woods; D McCusker, B Cox, D Kelly; J Sherry, S Lyons; T McElroy, S McCabe, E Donnelly; P Ward, D Keenan, K Connor
Subs: M O’Brien for Kelly (20), T Corrigan for Connor (HT), S Quigley for Lyons (HT), M McGrath for Corrigan (47), N Bogue for Cox (61)
DONEGAL: M Boyle; K McFadden, C Cannon, T McKinley; L Keaney, S McGowan, M Boyle; R Wherity, P Mailey; D McLaughlin, G McFadden, S Griffin; S McGarvey, A Hanlon (1-0), W Gillespie
Subs: C Ward for Mailey (HT), D Molloy for McGarvey (HT), P Carr for Kinley (58), L Kelly for Wherity (64)
Referee: Martin Sludden (Tyrone).