It was not to be for Derrygonnelly on Sunday.

There are days in sport when you simply come up against a team who on that day are better than you, and that is what happened to the Harps on Sunday.

Yes, they will be disappointed with the result and their performance, and they will ask themselves ‘If we had done this or that would it have worked out differently?’, but there is every possibility that whatever the Harps did, it still would not have been enough to come out on top, as Kilcoo simply had the look of a team on a mission.

They are a team who are at the top of their game and this was back-to-back Ulster titles for the Mourne men. But Ulster is just a means to an end – it gives them another crack at the All Ireland, having lost the 2019 final.

There were no wild celebrations at the end, the focus was already on an All Ireland semi-final and play like they did on Sunday, against what we have to remember is a very good Derrygonnelly side, and it is going to take an excellent team to beat them.

However, they have had their disappointments in Ulster, too.

They lost two finals – to Crossmaglen in 2012, and Slaughtneil in 2016 – before they eventually landed the Seamus McFerran Cup in 2019. They went away, they worked hard and they came back better to go on and achieve their goals.

And this is what Derrygonnelly will have to take from Sunday.

The Harps will be sore for a few weeks following the manner of the defeat, but we have seen teams suffer heavy defeats before only to come back determined to put it right.

Derrygonnelly will need no reminding that they beat Ederney by 12 points in the 2018 Fermanagh SFC final, only for Ederney to come back and beat them in the 2020 final.

I have no doubt that Derrygonnelly won’t be happy to have simply reached an Ulster final – they will now want to learn from this, get back there again, and come away with a different result.

A massive task

Of course, getting back there won’t be easy, and as was shown in Fermanagh this year, getting back into the provincial series is a massive task in itself with the Harps requiring replays against both Ederney and Kinawley before going on to claim the New York Cup.

That, though, is all for another day.

When the dust settles on Sunday’s defeat, Derrygonnelly will be able to look back on what has been a great year for the club. They completed a league and championship double, regaining the New York Cup after losing it to Ederney in 2020, and at the start of the season that would have been their priority.

They followed that up with fine performances in beating Dromore and Clann Eireann to reach that first-ever Ulster final, and with a lot of young players making their mark within their squad, they have a lot to look forward to in the years ahead.