McCusker urges Fermanagh to ‘give it a real go’

Ulster Senior Championship preliminary round

Tyrone v Fermanagh

Saturday, Brewster Park, 6.30pm

By Katrina Brennan

IT’S a derby game on Saturday but for Fermanagh captain Declan McCusker there’s no escaping the significance of this match. The Ederney man’s links with Tyrone start with his father, a Dromore man, he lives just next ‘door’ to the All-Ireland champions, he’s good friends with Peter Harte and he teaches in Holy Family Primary School.

The P5 teacher admits that the slagging has started in the lead up to the game.

“There’s no escaping it. They were telling me today about how much they were going to tank us by” he laughed.

It’s not just McCusker’s students who give Fermanagh little chance, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone outside the county backing the Erne men but the 31-year-old skipper believes.

“We definitely think we have a good chance if we get everything right and hope they maybe have a bit of an off day.

“Their last two league games have shown a very big improvement in their form but I still think if we turn up and learn all the things we have been trying to learn over the last number of weeks, that we have a shot.”

McCusker says he uses visualisation before games in order to control his nerves and the situation, it’s a method he has employed from Pete McGrath’s reign when sports psychologist Richard Shanahan worked with the Fermanagh team.

“I tend to be more nervous before big club games than county games. I do a fair bit of visualisation to help with things like that and I think whenever there’s more expected of you, you be more nervous but the fact that we’ve absolutely nothing to lose, the All-Ireland champions are coming, so we can go out and give it a real good go, we’ve nothing to worry about.

“I would go through my day routine in my head, from when I get up to the ball is thrown in and different things that I would expect to happen during the match. It’s just going over and over your routine in your head and by the time you get to do it you should be grand.”

McCusker is one of the most experienced players on the team and was a huge loss for Kieran Donnelly in the run-in to the league after he hobbled off early in the first half of the Laois match in Brewster Park. The Ederney man missed the last three games due to a calf injury that then went into the Achilles.

“I was disappointed in myself getting injured, I sort of feel if I didn’t try to play the Laois game I would’ve got back a bit quicker.

“It was a tough enough time to be honest.”

The rehab has been intense but things are looking up. “Hopefully I’ll be in good enough shape and available for selection,” anticipates McCusker.

He made his championship debut in 2013, having joined the county panel in 2011 and has never played Tyrone in the championship, admitting it’s a “bit extra special because they’re All-Ireland champions” but he won’t be in awe of them either because he knows what’s at stake.

“I think everyone growing up in Fermanagh, their dream is to win an Ulster Championship.

“I don’t think anyone dreams of winning All-Ireland’s really, everyone wants to win an Ulster Championship.”

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