Tailteann Cup quarter-final
Fermanagh v Cavan
Sunday, Brewster Park, 4pm
By Mark McGoldrick
AS Declan McCusker wearily hobbled into the changing rooms in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Saturday afternoon, with a hamstring strain on one leg and a ‘dead leg’ on the other, he epitomised exactly the way a captain should perform when his side needs him.
The Ederney man was immense against Longford, so good he was named on the Tailteann Cup Team of the Week alongside his teammate Ultán Kelm. He was a constant outlet for Fermanagh to get the ball out of defence and into the opposition half, he was a terrier for break ball in the middle third of the pitch and he was always instructing and ordering the Erne defenders to get back into shape.
This weekend against near neighbours Cavan, McCusker will again have to step up as he bids to lead the Ernesiders to the semi-final of the Tailteann Cup. Fermanagh face a daunting task on Sunday when they take on Cavan, especially given the fact that they easily disposed of Down with nine points to spare in the first round. McCusker is expecting a massive challenge from Mickey Graham’s men this weekend.
“Looking at their championship games so far, they beat Antrim comfortably, they were very good against Donegal, bar Donegal got two lucky goals against them, they probably deserved to win that game, and then they took care of Down pretty emphatically at the weekend.
“They are going very well, they seem to have pushed on after winning division four and they will be full of confidence.”
Cavan are formidable in front of goal and boast a range of marquee scorers, both from play and from placed ball.
In their three championship games, the Breffni men scored a whopping 1-60.
McCusker is aware that the Erne defenders will face another huge test.
“We will have to improve it this week,” he says.
“They have a serious forward unit. Paddy Lynch was outstanding against Donegal, he is a big strong man and they have a lot of pace around him.
“We will have to get looking at them this week and try and get our structures in place to counteract them.”
Although he was pleased with the victory against Longford, McCusker was disappointed with some aspects of Fermanagh’s performance, especially the first 35 minutes when Longford dominated the game.
“We started poor enough, they [Longford] set up well defensively, and with our few unforced errors they hit us on the break and got a few scores,” concedes McCusker.
“When Conall [Jones] got the black card, we did set up a bit better and finished the half stronger.”
If Fermanagh are to progress to the semi-final of the Tailteann Cup, they must produce a solid 70 minute performance especially with old foes, the ruthless Cavan, standing in their way.
The Ederney speedster is optimistic though;
“We will be confident too, if we get things right, we can get the right result.”
Heading into the Longford game, McCusker was one of a number of Fermanagh players who were carrying knocks.
To get recovered and ready for this weekend’s clash with Cavan is going to be challenging, he realises.
“The fact that there is only an eight day turnaround will probably help them because their game was a bit easier than ours.
“Ours went right down to the wire and was tougher on the bodies but we’ll get recovered and be ready to go again.”