By Niall Gartland
EVEN when Kieran Donnelly was in charge of Scotstown in 2017 and 2018, Fermanagh was never far from his heart.
Donal Morgan was entrusted with the Scotstown captaincy during that period, and he says Donnelly never disparaged his native county and has the utmost of respect for their intercounty manager.
That bodes well for the county following last week’s news of Donnelly’s appointment as their new senior manger, as Morgan explains.
“We still share the odd text, he doesn’t live that far away, there’s a lot of wilderness between us and Brookeborough and basically not much else.
“One thing I would say is that even when he was over us, he was a huge, huge Fermanagh man. He was never a blow-in but you could always say he had great pride in Fermanagh. He still went to all their matches and spoke very highly of a lot of their players. They’ll definitely be getting someone who’s an out and out Fermanagh man who only wants the best for them.”
Scotstown had won senior championship titles in Monaghan in 2013, 2015 and 2016 when Donnelly took charge of the team. He continued their success, winning back-to-back titles, and he brought the side to the brink of an Ulster title (they lost to Gaoth Dobhair in the 2018 decider).
Morgan said: “He came into us straight after Mattie McGleenan left, his first year was 2017. It was probably testament to him that he wanted the job because we were on a good run, so anything other than winning championships was going to be a failure. There was an expectation of him so it was credit to him and his own confidence that he wanted to take the job.
“He came in and he didn’t change that kind of thing. He was very respectful of what he had achieved beforehand and didn’t come in to tear up the playbook. He looked at areas to be improved without making wholesale changes. Some managers might put more weight on putting their own stamp things but he wanted to continue what we were doing right.”
Donnelly, who is currently in charge of Cavan Gaels, was a hands-on manager with exceptional coaching ability, according to Morgan.
“The coaching end of it was something he really targeted. It’s not that long ago, but things have changed in the space of a few years with the mass defence disappearing thankfully, but in 2017 and 2018 that wasn’t the case.
“We didn’t experience a pile of that in Monaghan, but when we got into the Ulster Championship it was something very new to us. Kieran brought that tactical element into our game. The big teams in Donegal etc had been streets ahead of us tactically and that’s something that Kieran targeted.”
Morgan also said that Fermanagh are getting someone who is very much a player’s man.
“He’s a great fella. He didn’t live that far away from Scotstown. He probably had a keen interest in us even before he came in. He was really respectful to what we had achieved and what we were trying to achieve. He’s a real player’s man. He hadn’t finished playing long, and even when he was playing, he was a deep thinker as a player, so he knew how we were feeling and that was a big strength for us.”