Donegal will have to match Fermanagh for hunger and desire in Sunday’s Ulster final and if they do they should be celebrating another Anglo Celt Cup success come Sunday evening.
That is the view of former Donegal player and assistant to Declan Bonner the last time the Rosses man guided Donegal to an Ulster final in 1998, Charlie Mulgrew.
And no one knows better than what will drive the Fermanagh players on Sunday than the St Eunan’s man. Charlie Mulgrew had three very successful seasons as Fermanagh manager in the middle of the last decade.
The St Eunan’s clubman has been the most successful Fermanagh manager of all time. In 2004, in his first year in charge of the Erne County, they came within a kick of a ball of reaching the county’s first All-Ireland final.
After Qualifiers wins over Meath, Cork, Donegal and a first round walkover over Tipperary. Fermanagh defeated Armagh in the All-Ireland quarter-final before it took a replay to separate the Erne County and Mayo for a place in the All-Ireland final.
Mayo just shaded the replay by two points, 0-13 to 1-11, after the teams ended level the first day at 0-9 each.
Fermanagh dominated most of the second half of the drawn game and with Mayo down to 14 men they had chances to pull away and win.
In the replay it was pretty close throughout as well and Fermanagh led going into the closing minutes before Mayo hit three late points to win by two.
“It was a great run and very enjoyable. The games were coming thick and fast and we improved with every game and just missed out against Mayo,” said the former Fermanagh boss.
“There was very little between the two teams.in both games and the two games could have gone either way. They were a very good group of players, very dedicated and committed and gave 100%.”
Mulgrew, an All-Ireland U-21 and senior medal winner with Donegal, feels the current Fermanagh team are a very focussed group of players and very well organised.
“My first impression is that they seem to be very impatient for Ulster success. Fermanagh have never won the Ulster Championship and like every other county they are very hungry for Ulster success.
“That hunger is something that Donegal are going to have to match in the final and if they do I cannot see anything but a Donegal win. But they are really going to have to match Fermanagh for hunger and if the don’t the upset is on the cards.
“The other thing I noticed about Fermanagh is they are extremely fit and very pacy. Their pace against Monaghan the last day was very impressive.”
Mulgrew also admits that he has been very impressed with Donegal and the style of football they are playing.
“Donegal have been very impressive in their three games so far and people say that Cavan, Derry and Down were poor and maybe so.
“But you can only beat what is in front of you and regardless of the quality of the opposition Donegal have played some very good football again.
“They are mixing the game with the long and short ball and running and I have been very impressed with their foot passing. The players seem to be enjoying themselves and they are chalking up big scores.
“I’ve only seen Fermanagh on the television. I watched their Division Three League final against Armagh and I thought they were very poor that day and well beaten.
“But the word afterwards was they were not too worried about the league final and they were quite happy to give Armagh, who they were playing in the championship, a false impression.
“And that is how it worked out. They beat Armagh well in the championship.
“As we saw against Monaghan they are very defensive and rely on hitting the opposition on the break and that is where the pace comes in.
Playing that system you won’t score much and you rely solely and restricting the opposing team to low numbers of scores.
“But I think if Donegal match them for hunger and desire they will have too much for them football wise. Donegal have the better balance and greater strength in depth and with Patrick McBrearty and Jamie Brennan playing well up front and Michael Murphy in the form he is in, I expect Donegal to have a little too much for them.”