Paul Coyle feels Fermanagh have a chance against Donegal - with right mentality

Paul Coyle feels Fermanagh have a chance against Donegal - with right mentality

When Paul Coyle was growing up in the Donegal/Fermanagh town- land of Laughill, he could kick the O’Neill’s into the next townland of Lisahully from his front garden.

And technically he could have been eligible to line out with Aodh Ruadh and by extension Donegal, as his townland is in the Rock parish in Ballyshannon.

Genial Paul went on to be one of Devenish’s and Fermanagh’s most stylish and accurate forwards, moved like a gazelle with ferocious pace and a deadly left foot from the mid 1980s to the early 1990s.

His earliest memories are of the legendary Denis McCabe bringing him to see Donegal U-21s winning the All-Ireland title in Carrick-on-Shannon in 1982.

Paul also went to the Ulster final of 1983 when outstanding players like Anthony Molloy, Martin McHugh, Joyce McMullin and Donal Reid burst on the scene.

“They were a big part of my youth and were great players and Sylvester Maguire of Cloghore was a neighbour and I ended up playing against them a few years later.”

And even though he is Devenish and Fermanagh through and through, there is a part of Paul that will always have an interest in the next door neighbours.

“That will always be the case as we go to Mass in the Rock in Ballyshannon and technically I might have been eligible for Ballyshannon and Donegal.

“Ballyshannon is very close to us as well and when I go to Mass in the Rock I would see the McGraths Pat, Jim and Mick, who is the current Donegal chairman.

“And there has always been a tradition of people from our country around the Loughside (Lough Melvin) of going to Ballyshannon to shop and to socialize.”.

Fermanagh were beaten by Donegal in 1991, when they were managed by ex-Donegal All-Ireland U-21 team manager P J McGowan and also in 1992 and Paul has vivid memories of both matches in Omagh.

“In the first match in 1991, I remember we got off to a very bad start and we were playing catch up for quite a while.

“My memory is that I was playing on John Joe Doherty first and then I was switched out to the half-forward line and played on Martin Shovlin.

“That was one of my better days as I ended up with five or six points, but you never got anything easy from an exceptional Donegal side.”

On the second day in 1992 Fermanagh got off to a very good start, as Paul recalls.

“I think we actually led Donegal by around 0-7 to 0-5 at half-time, before two crucial things happened.

“First we lost my club mate Michael O’Brien after a clash with the current Donegal manager Declan Bonner.

“And Simon Bradley had to go off injured so that was a double blow and Donegal pulled clear of us although it was not a very convincing victory and they upped the training and went on to win the All-Ireland.

“But a big difference between that Fermanagh team of ours and Fermanagh teams, say in the past 15 years, is that we did not have the same belief that we could win and that is very important.

“A lot of Fermanagh people were delighted for them (Donegal) especially in the border areas in and around Belleek.”

And of course Declan Bonner was a key cog in that great Donegal victory, as Coyle admits.

“Declan Bonner was a very physically strong, well balanced player.

“He had a relatively low centre of gravity and could turn in a very short space and he had a great left foot and was part of a really great Donegal team.”

But the big question is whether Fermanagh can pull off the shock of shocks and beat Donegal?

However Coyle, who was also part of Malachy O’Rourke’s backroom team in 2008, says he is giving Fermanagh “every chance”.

“Certainly it is going to be a big ask.

“The current Donegal team are playing some exceptional attacking football as evidenced by their huge scores.

“But Sunday will be the test, but I am not sure that Donegal team has been tested yet so far by any of the teams that they have played.

“And there could still be some question marks about their defence.

“Fermanagh will obviously play very defensively and will be very hungry.

“Under Rory Gallagher they are going to be extremely well organised and Donegal will have to prepare for a very dour, defensive game and if they have the mentality to break that down, grand, but if they haven’t then I give Fermanagh a chance.”

And there will be some craic around Laughill, Lisahully and Killeen if he is right!