Donegal should be just too strong says former manager P J McGowan

Tom Comack talks to P. J. McGowan, who has managed both Donegal and Fermanagh and would love to see Fermanagh win, but not on Sunday

Donegal should be just too strong says former manager P J McGowan

Donegal chairman and manager, P J McGowan, also managed Donegal’s Ulster final opponents, Fermanagh, for a short spell in the early 1990s.

As a consequence the Sean MacCumhaill’s clubman always watches out for Fermanagh’s results with great interest and he has attended both of the Erne County’s two championship games so far this season.

“I would love to see Fermanagh win an Ulster championship and if they weren't playing Donegal in Sunday’s final, I would be all for them,” said the All-Ireland U-21 winning manager with Donegal. He was also a member of the 1974 Donegal Ulster Championship winning team.

PJ McGowan managed Donegal seniors for three seasons in the middle 1990s.

“I watched them against Armagh in the first round and I thought they were very well organised and efficient.

“I was impressed with Declan McCusker at centre half-forward, a lot of play goes through him. Ryan Jones is another player that caught my eye against Armagh.

“They rely on the Quigleys for a lot of their scores.”

Fermanagh 2018 are a far cry from the Fermanagh P J McGowan took over at the end of 1990.

They hadn’t won a game in the Ulster Championship in a decade and they were in the lower division of the national league and going nowhere fast.

“We beat Antrim in Brewster Park, the first year and that was their first win in the championship in ten years.

“We beat Antrim again the following year in Casement Park. They were big wins for Fermanagh at the time.

“They were a good group of players and as committed a group of players as in any other county.

“Derry beat us the first year in the semi-final and Donegal the second. They were both strong at the time. Donegal went on to win the All-Ireland in ‘92 and Derry won the following year.”

“The Donegal game in 1991 was in Healy Park and one of my memories from the day was meeting Brian McEniff (Donegal manager) in the car park after the game coming toward me holding the hands of my two children Mark and Gina.”

PJ also feels Monaghan, who Fermanagh defeated in the semi-final, paid the price for taking Fermanagh for granted and as a consequence struggled to break down the packed Fermanagh defensive system.

However he also admits the Fermanagh packed defensive system will cause Donegal problems, but in the end Donegal will win out because they hold too many aces up front.

“They held Conor McManus but I think we have more firepower. Patrick McBrearty is playing well. Jamie Brennan is going well up front alongside McBrearty. Ryan McHugh was back to himself against Down.

“Michael Murphy has been outstanding and is playing better than ever and Leo McLoone is playing well again and his fitness level is back up. “Leo really struggled when he returned first at the start of the year. His fitness was way off and he was struggling to make an impact.

“But Declan persisted with him and he gradually got back to the pace of the game and he’s had a good championship so far. Leo gets through a lot of work and gives the team a physical presence in the middle third and he is a great man to get forward and score a goal.

“I would also have Odhran MacNiallais in the team. He is a class player and kicks score from long range and he can also deliver a quality ball.”

P J also believes Fermanagh’s defeat of Monaghan will have removed any danger of complacency in the Donegal camp.

“I think that is the one big lesson to come out of Fermanagh’s win over Monaghan. I cannot help but feel Monaghan went into that game thinking Fermanagh will give them a game for three quarters of the game but we will pull away in the end.

“Monaghan almost got away with it but just got caught at the finish with Eoin Donnelly’s late goal.

“That was the Fermanagh game plan going into the game. Keep it tight for as long as possible and hope to be still within striking difference going into the last few minutes. It worked a treat and that will be the plan again on Sunday.

“But a good Donegal start and a few quick scores just like the last day against Down will force Fermanagh to alter the plan and come out and attack if they want to win. This would create a little more space up front and make it a little easier for Donegal.

“If that doesn’t happen it will be close all the way but I still expect Donegal to come through.”