Ulster SFC: Fermanagh need new tactic to beat Donegal

Donegal's Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Sean Quigley of Fermanagh battle for possession
Donegal beat Fermanagh by 12 points in a one-sided Ulster final last year
2019 Ulster SFC quarter-final: Fermanagh v Donegal
Date: Sunday 26 May Venue: Brewster Park, Enniskillen Throw-in: 14:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Two Northern from 13:45 BST and the BBC iPlayer; live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster MW and BBC Sport website

BBC GAA pundit Brendan Devenney says Fermanagh must show more attacking ambition to beat Donegal in their Ulster quarter-final at Brewster Park.

The Ernesiders will look to avenge last year's Ulster final defeat on Sunday.

Rory Gallagher's side upset Donegal in the league this season but Devenney believes they will need to find another gear to repeat that success this week.

"Fermanagh have to come with a bit more of a tactic other than out-and-out defence," said the ex-Donegal forward.

"Unless there is some plan from Rory Gallagher - and I hope there is - I think we saw the last day with the long ball tactic going inside that Fermanagh have some big men inside and could certainly cause anyone problems.

"But I think they know that unless they can get more direct long ball in and get more players forward, they are not going to beat Donegal.

"The long ball could cause Donegal a few problems, but if they play as they did in the Ulster final last year, there is only going to be one winner."

McBrearty's return a huge factor

Fermanagh narrowly missed out on promotion to the top flight of the Football League this year when they finished in third place in the Division Two standings.

Donegal joined Meath in securing a place in Division One for next season but only after the Ulster champions recovered from back-to-back defeats in February.

The surprise round three loss against Tipperary was followed by a three-point defeat by Fermanagh in Letterkenny, which threatened to derail their promotion bid.

Donegal's Jason McGee with Fermanagh's Lee Cullen
Fermanagh beat 14-man Donegal 0-13 to 0-10 in the football league this year

"I think Donegal were out of sorts for the game in Letterkenny. In many ways, Donegal were lucky in the early part of the league to pick up the points that they did," Devenney acknowledged.

"Certainly I think Donegal will be a different prospect from that day in Letterkenny. They have unearthed some new talent and some new pace, and they have the old guard back as well.

"They seem to be coming into the Championship with a clean bill of health. Paddy McBrearty being back is a huge factor for them as well - so having a player of his ability is massive.

'It will come down to tactics'

Since their last meeting with Fermanagh in February, Donegal have been unbeaten - winning their last three league matches and edging Meath in the Division Two final at Croke Park.

Devenney believes that securing their return to the top flight for next season could give Donegal the psychological edge this week: "After getting promoted back to Division One, Donegal will be coming in quite confident - especially after a great showing against Meath [in the final], particularly in the second half."

"Fermanagh were Ulster finalists last year and they came so close to getting to Division Two this season playing those all-out defensive tactics.

"I think it will come down to tactics on the day. In last year's Ulster final, Donegal mirrored Fermanagh and then their pace and extra firepower got them across the line - that's what Donegal will be looking for again on Sunday."

Donegal captain Michael Murphy
Michael Murphy will again be Donegal's main attacking threat after scoring 0-4 in the 2018 Ulster final

The form of Donegal captain Michael Murphy, who scored 0-7 in the final win against Meath, is another factor that has convinced Devenney that Declan Bonner's side will prevail on Sunday.

"The form of Murphy has just been unbelievable, I'm running out of things to say about the man," added the former International Rules player.

"There is no player in Ireland as important to a football team as he is to Donegal. He makes them tick all over the pitch and it was just another masterclass against Meath in that second half to see Donegal back up as Division Two champions."

Fermanagh: T Treacy, J Cassidy, C Cullen, L Cullen, U Kelm, J McMahon, K Connor, E Donnelly, R Jones, R Lyons, A Breen, C Corrigan, D McCusker, C Jones, S Quigley.

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