Fermanagh captain Doonan eager to bounce back
By Michael Devlin
After losing intermediate finals in 2009 and 2014, Fermanagh finally landed their first adult ladies All-Ireland title in 2017 with a gritty Junior final win over Derry after a replay in Clones.
Their subsequent season in the Intermediate Championship ended with relegation back down to the third tier, but the slate was wiped clean for this new season with the appointment of Tyrone native Jonny Garrity as manager.
For Erne County captain Joanne Doonan, the goal for 2019 was to bounce back, and they can do that with victory over Louth in the All-Ireland Junior Final in Croke Park this Sunday.
“I suppose every county’s goal is to move up and keep progressing,” says the Kinawley clubwoman. “Definitely for us coming off such a bad year last year, I suppose a lot of us would feel that we should have stayed up, we have lot of players who’d be in agreement with that.”
Fermanagh’s season has been characterised by both progression and overcoming setbacks. They secured league promotion from Division Three with victory in the final over Antrim, their first league title since 2007. An Ulster final was then reached, but it was the Saffrons who claimed the spoils that day.
The sides would meet yet again in the All-Ireland series, with Fermanagh regaining the upper hand, while victory over Derry made it two from two as the Erne County topped the Group B standings. Learnings from that Ulster final defeat though were crucial to Fermanagh’s journey to this weekend’s game, according to Doonan.
“That was definitely one of my goals this year anyway,” says Doonan about climbing out of Division Four. “We’ve been playing there for a long time, we haven’t been up since 2011, so it’s great to get that and set us up for championship next year, playing in that higher division.
“As the saying goes, and as clichéd as it is, you either win or you learn. The Ulster final, we learnt a lot from that. It’s very easy to stay positive when everything’s going well and winning all around you, so it really hit home when we didn’t win. We learnt a lot from it, it tested our character and it shows that our character stood to us that we are here in an All-Ireland final.”
A second All-Ireland Final in three years, Doonan says the experience gained from 2017 has been passed down to the fresher faces on the Fermanagh panel. She’s keen on lifting the cup atop the Hogan Stands steps rather than after a replay elsewhere like two years ago.
“We’ve been telling the girls who haven’t been here before what’s to be expected, so there’s no surprises on the day. It’s great to get the experience of the younger girls too, to bring them on.
“Everybody is really looking forward to it again, and we want to win it in Croker this time as opposed to the replay in Clones. Louth are a very good team. They beat Antrim who were going very strong, they won Leinster outright as well. They are a very strong team and we’ll be underestimating them in any way.
“We have a massive panel this year, 34 players, so a few unfortunately won’t even get a place. It’s fantastic though that some of the younger girls that you wouldn’t have heard tell of two years ago have been some of our main players this year. Even some of the players that were there back in 2017 are pushing to get a starting place, so it goes to show the quality of football in the county as well.
“It’s just fantastic. There’s a really good culture that’s developed, everybody’s happy to see each other playing as well because they know they’ve worked hard to get there. It’s fantastic to see everybody out pushing everybody on.”