National Football League Division Two
Clare v Fermanagh
Sunday, Cusack Park, 2pm
By John Hughes and Niall McCoy
FERMANAGH will be hoping to follow the example of Ulster neighbours Cavan as they head to Ennis fighting for their Division Two lives.
The Breffni county have delivered the blueprint that Ryan McMenamin’s side simply must follow, starting with their match against Clare.
In round one, Armagh hammered Cavan by 13 points resulting in an emotional post-match interview from Mickey Graham. There he spoke about the need for a response and pulled no punches about the unacceptable nature of the performance by both players and management.
Their reaction was ideal. Wins followed against Westmeath, Laois and the Erne county before Clare halted their progress in round five.
The similarities are obvious. Fermanagh too went down to Armagh by 13 points. McMenamin, like Graham, delivered an emotional post-match interview with the press where he made no excuses.
A three-game winning response, like Cavan, is impossible, but two games might do as they prepare for Cavan this weekend and Laois at home in round seven.
“It’s the beauty of the league, you even look at Tyrone beating Dublin after the heavy defeat (v Galway),” McMenamin said when asked about following Cavan’s lead.
“That’s all well and true, you need a reaction out of the players.”
Fermanagh football has had its highs and it has had its lows. Saturday evening’s display was very much one of the latter.
Forced into radical reshuffle of personnel minutes before throw-in, the Ernesiders were stunned by a Jamie Clarke goal three minutes in. By the break there was eight points between the sides and over the course of the second half matters only got worse.
‘Ricey’ was honest in his assessment of the one-sided contest.
“It was just one of those games, we’re very disappointed. I’ve been here three years and it’s probably the worst performances we’ve had.
“Everything we talked about before the game went out the window. I have to look at myself and ask am I doing enough for this team?
“It’s disappointing, Tier two football was what we played. We made a lot of mistakes, and as I’ve said mistakes have been killing us all year. “Sometimes you have to realise you’re papering over cracks, saying there was a point in it here, a point in it there. Armagh punished us and could have scored six or seven goals.
“We were poor, we were flat even in the warm up, Joe (McMahon) was saying. You just got that sense we weren’t going well enough. You get days like that and I have to maybe question if the preparation was right.”
Preparation certainly wasn’t helped by the loss of two central cogs in the Fermanagh machine, one of those with only minutes to go to throw-in.
“We lost Eoin (Donnelly) and Che (Cullen) before the match, and those are two huge losses for us, probably two of our best players in the league so far. Eoin got a bang in training on Thursday night and Che just hurt his leg in the warm-up.
“You can say all you want about us being a small county, but if you take a player of the calibre of Eoin Donnelly out of any team, Che Cullen has been our best defender, it’s would be a massive loss for any team especially just before a game.”
McMenamin said it was still unclear whether either Donnelly or Cullen would be back for the trip to Ennis, but he was heartened to finally see attacking ace Tomás Corrigan finally getting some game-time.
“We need all our players. We got Tomás (Corrigan) on for 30 minutes and hopefully we can kick on in training and see how we get on next week against Clare. The beauty of the league is we’ve Clare next. We have to win our next two games and start praying for a miracle.”
While the return of Corrigan is a boost, that news has been offset by the revelation that Ultan Kelm is Australia bound. McMenamin says he doesn’t intend to stand in the way of the Erne Gaels man’s bid to break into the big time Down Under.
“In fairness to Ultan he’s been open with me from the very start about it. He wants to do it and he phoned me as soon as he got picked.
“It’s happening in April, he’s a young man, I can’t deny him his dream, he wants to go and give it a go. It’s going to be a blow to Fermanagh, but that’s something the GAA is going to have to look at, that a player can be approached to go to a combine in the middle of the season.”