Ulster JFC quarter final
Desertmartin v Donagh (Fermanagh)
Brewster Park, Enniskillen
Sun Nov 28
Ref: Mark Dorrian (Donegal)
Desermartin manager Kevin O'Neill faced a bit of a ribbing after telling us this would be the club's first ever Ulster campaign.
The ladies were quick to remind him they had tasted the adrenaline of the provincial stage, but for the men, currently waiting in the wings, this is uncharted territory.
Although Sean Dolan's made things sticky for them, St Martin's eventually pulled away for a ten-point win which secured back-to-back junior titles.
They leave a great deal of created history in their wake.
The 2020 crown, won in 2021, was the club's first junior title since 1967, and they became the first team to win the championship twice within one calendar year last month.
Desertmartin management team.
O'Neill says the players are keenly aware they are living through history.
“It's a great place to be in really,” he said.
“None of these boys have ever had this opportunity and there are boys round training saying they've never trained in November before.
“I know the weather hasn't been great, but you can see the boys want to be there and they want to grab this opportunity with both hands.
“We also have to be mindful that we may never get this opportunity again, so it's about making the most of it while we are here.
“There are clubs who have had success over the past few years, that have been going in Ulster and they know what they're at, whereas it's new to our boys.
“At the minute, we're making the most of it.”
The double junior champions will be without Ryan McGuckin, who suffered a broken jaw in the Derry semi final win over Craigbane, while Marty Breen is again an injury doubt.
Desertmartin are yet to concede a goal in championship football this season, and have conceded a paltry 0-20 across their five games.
A total of 8-57 (81pts) at the other end leaves them averaging 16.2 points per game and an average concession of just 4 points per game. In Derry, they have been almost impenetrable.
Their opponents, St Patrick's Donagh, are coming from a similar favourites' position in Fermanagh. Like Desertmartin, they were tipped to win the championship and duly did so.
Managed by Ballinascreen man and former Derry ladies manager Paul Hasson, they saw off neighbours Newtownbutler in the Fermanagh final.
Across four championship games, they conceded 2-46 (52pts), leaving an average concession rate of 13 points per game, but their total at the other end may point to Desertmartin's toughest test yet.
Donagh celebrating their Fermanagh title.
Donagh have racked up 11-38 (71pts) in four games, only failing to find the net once; in their opening-day defeat, also against Newtownbutler.
They have averaged 17.8 points per game, something that may raise a few eyebrows in the Derry side's defence, and manager Kevin O'Neill says it will be a 'massive test'.
“I've seen a few videos of them, so I've been able to watch a couple of their games. They won Division 2 in Fermanagh and are probably playing in a championship below where they should be,” he said.
“They were favourites to win it and they went on and won it, which is testament to them putting their shoulder to the wheel and responded to a wee bit of pressure.
“They have a lot of experience in their team; they're big and physical, so we definitely won't be taking them lightly.”
The club has been the centre of a real buzz since the county final. The club held their dinner dance, giving a chance for everyone to celebrate their achievements.
A breakfast event has been organised for the morning of the game, before a bus will transport supporters to Enniskillen.
O'Neill says the players have to prepare a little differently.
“You probably don't realise it when you're just going to training, but there is a huge buzz around the place,” he said.
“They're making the most of this opportunity and everybody in the club is aware that this doesn't come around too often and we want to make the most of it when it does.
“It's the biggest game of these boys' club careers, but so far they've answered everybody's questions when the pressure has come on.
“It's been a long wait, really; four weeks is a long time, but we'll take an Ulster campaign no matter how long we have to wait.”
Murray, an All-Ireland minor winner with Derry, is a precocious talent. He has the ability to unlock a packed defence and has a willingness to work hard to find shooting opportunities
Equally comfortable playing on the loop and taking men on to go directly through the middle, he is a player who will certainly be on the radar of the Fermanagh men.
A 1-2 haul from full forward McDermott helped Donagh to victory in the Fermanagh final, and the full forward has time again proved the focal point for his side's attacking options.
He hit consecutive hattricks in the games against Brookeborough and Coa, and flanked by the very able Eimhin Curran and Ryan Kelly, who both scored goals in the final, he is a formidable opponent.
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