Harps ladies head into the unknown after fixtures confusion

By Michael McMullan

DERRYGONNELLY had to wait until last night (Wednesday) to find out the identity of Sunday’s Ulster IFC final opponents, but the game wasn’t played.

Steelstown’s postponed game with Ballyshannon was refixed for last weekend, with Ulster LGFA moving their semi-final against Cavan champions Castlerahan/Denn for last night.

The Derry side, beaten in last year’s final against Kinawley, made an unsuccessful appeal to Ulster LGFA on Tuesday night to have their semi-final moved back to Sunday.

With the Ulster champions due to travel to England for the All-Ireland quarter-final on the weekend of November 19/20, the competition was set to go ahead as planned.

“All we can do is prepare as best we can,” said Derrygonnelly manager Garry Smyth, speaking ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.

“In advance of any game, it’s always good to know who you are playing, but that’s not the case this time with the tight timescale so we’ll have to work with the way things are.”

He’ll have been a spectator last night in Templeport after guiding his side to the decider.

His daughter Eimear has been their shooting star in attack, but he was keen to point to Derrygonnelly’s defensive showing.

Only Cliodhna Martin. with a lobbed goal in the first half of their semi-final win over Newtownbutler, has found the back of the Harps’ net during their four-game intermediate journey to Sunday’s final.

“I am more pleased with how our defence has been going,” he said of their average concession of 5.5 scores.

“It’s always great to get scores at the other end of the field, but it helps when you minimise the opposition’s scoring threat. We are pleased to have kept relatively tight at the back.”

Derrygonnelly looked on as Kinawley went all the way to the Ulster final last year, beating Steelstown in the decider before coming unstuck against Dublin side St Sylvester’s in the All-Ireland series.

“I think there were two points in it in the (2021) league final with Kinawley and a point after extra-time against them in the county final, so the results speak for themselves,” Smyth said of his team’s comparison to their Erne rivals.

“The dynamic changes when you go into Ulster and see how a team reacts. This is our first run in Ulster at any stage. We were in the Ulster Junior in 2018 and lost to a very good Trillick team. Our result against Bredagh this year is our first win in Ulster.”

After their 6-11 to 0-3 win over Bredagh’s B team – their first team play in the Ulster senior ranks – Derrygonnelly overcame last year’s beaten Ulster junior finalists Moortown thanks to 1-7 from Eimear Smyth and a Brenda Bannon goal.

The Harps also won the Division One league title, beating Kinawley in the final before losing in the Senior Championship decider which saw them take part in the Fermanagh Intermediate Championship which followed it.

“We had two very competitive games against Newtownbutler and then Tempo in the final,” Garry said of their Intermediate Championship run.

Now, their season rests on Sunday and a chance to make history with a first Ulster title.

“We are improving and learning all the time,” Smyth said. “That’s all you can do in the big games – to learn from it and improve every day you go out.”

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