History beckons for Fermanagh as they bid for first provincial title

The celebrations as Fermanagh reached the Ulster final - but can they take the next step?

Considering Fermanagh are on the cusp of only a sixth Ulster SFC final appearance, it’s safe to suggest Sunday’s game could be a once-in-a-career opportunity for this generation of Erne players.

That could threaten to make playing Donegal an overwhelming experience, adding to the pressure and the sense they must extract every last drop out of themselves to end a ridiculously long wait for a first provincial title.

If captain Eoin Donnelly becomes the first Fermanagh man to lift the Anglo Celt he will achieve immortality, and he’s well aware of it.

“It hasn’t happened yet so, yes, the first will be remembered. I hope it’s us.

I don’t know what it will mean or what will happen afterwards, but if we win on Sunday whatever comes after that, it’ll come. For most players, they don’t know if it will come around again but I think that is even more of a reason to be motivated and not let it pass you by.

“It’s a different story if you’re very young and it’s happened in your first year, but a lot of us have been playing for a good number of years and haven’t got there so it’s more of a reason to make sure we do get over the line.”

The age profile of the Erne squad is good and at 30, Donnelly heads an experienced squad which has known disappointment. They raised a good gallop under Pete McGrath in 2016 to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals but this is their first Ulster decider since 2008.

I haven’t had the build-up to an Ulster final before so I don’t know what normal motivation is to win your first one or your tenth one. It is what it is. It’s going to be a big day.

“I’m glad Fermanagh’s involved as a Fermanagh man. As a supporter I’d be happy to be there supporting Fermanagh and as a player we know we have a massive opportunity.”

Donnelly’s late goal against Monaghan gave Fermanagh this opportunity, and it is a goal he’ll be remembered for.

But, truthfully, he has no interest in being Fermanagh’s match-winning hero again this weekend. “I’d be quite happy for it to be forgotten about if on Ulster final day somebody else is the hero. I’d sleep easy after that.

“I remember being there in ‘08 as a supporter and thinking it was fantastic for Fermanagh to get there and thinking it was going to happen more often but it hasn’t happened. I wish we had been there more.

“I don’t know when it will happen again but for me, on that side of things, it just makes me more determined to make sure we get over the line.”

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