By Peter Nolan
Donegal and Fermanagh made their delayed 2002 debut in Sunday’s opener with Donegal prevailing 2-15 to 2-9. The match opened with a moment of silence for John Joe McGovern. Fermanagh also wore black armbands in tribute to their club mate and supporter.
Both teams showed some early rust after the extended winter break and the scoreboard operator went undisturbed for the opening 10 minutes. Donegal finally found the target, although it came after long serving Leslie McGettigan missed a penalty.
Donegal wingback Gerry Kelly set the whole chain of events in motion with a beautiful through ball to Gerard McCabe. McCabe was dragged down drawing the peno. McGettigan hit the bottom of the post with his effort, but wingback Sean Campbell drove over the rebound. Campbell soon followed with a second score, setting off a good Donegal run.
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Gerry Kelly stamped his imprint on the match, orchestrating several Donegal attacks with his incisive passing. Donegal stretched their advantage to 1-3 to nil with a goal from their lively wing forward Anton Diver.
Fermanagh were in danger of losing touch when fortune intervened on their behalf. David Higgins launched a routine ball into the square and when the dust cleared the ball was nestled in the Donegal net. Gary Dowd and Gary Judge further closed the gap, but Sean McCabe’s goal from a difficult angle burst Fermanagh’s bubble just on the halftime buzzer.
Fermanagh opened the second half determined to get back into this match and reeled off three straight points in that cause. Midfielder Michael Murphy opened with a free and Gary Judge, who played a fine overall match, added two more. With Fermanagh nipping at their heels, Donegal steadied themselves and soon increased their four-point advantage. Anton Diver and midfielder Garreth Kelly led the Donegal response as Donegal knocked over five unanswered points.
Judge ended Fermanagh’s drought before referee Kieran O’Sullivan was forced to send a player from each side to the line after a nasty brawl. Fermanagh fought hard to the end, but Donegal were the stronger team on the day. Donegal did have cause for concern when Man of the Match Gerry Kelly went off after getting a late knock.
This match won’t make or break either team and it would not be impossible to see a rematch with more on the line.
Man of the Match: Gerry Kelly, Donegal.
Donegal: Frank Molloy, Pat McGill, Mark McClafferty, Pauric Rooney, Sean Campbell (0-2), Keith Nolan, Gerry Kelly, Sean McCabe (1-2), Garreth Kelly (0-2), Niall McClaferty, Gerard McCabe, Anton Diver (1-3), Liam Gallagher, Leslie McGettigan (0-4), Aiden Fogarty (0-1). Sub: Willie McBride (0-1).
Fermanagh: Fergus Bogue, Kieran Donnelly, Sean Melly, Gene Mulligan, David Higgins (1-0), Fergal Brennan, Stephen Garry, Gary Dowd (0-2), Michael Murphy (0-2), Gary Judge (1-4), Stephen Owens, Paul McDonagh, Emmet Carty, Sean Jones (0-1), Lawrence Kennedy.