James McMahon doesn't care about criticism of Fermanagh's style of play
FERMANAGH centre half-back James McMahon claims the criticism directed at the Ernemen for their style of play has become less and less distracting with time.
Their perceived negative style of play has come in for heavy criticism from some quarters, but, speaking ahead of Sunday’s Ulster SFC quarter-final against Donegal at Brewster Park, McMahon believes it to be well wide of the mark, saying it has got to the stage in his career where he doesn’t care what those outside the current group think.
“People say what they want to say about us. I don’t really listen to it to be honest,’’ says McMahon.
“Maybe, early days, as a county player I would have seen a headline or someone saying something and thought, ‘are we really like that?’, but now I don’t pay any attention to it.
“We know what we are trying to do. We have created a lot of chances in a lot of games, in some games we took them and in others we didn’t, and we know we have to get better at being more consistent, but we are perfectly happy with the way we play.”
McMahon also believes that Rory Gallagher’s side are not as far away from the top teams as popular opinion would hold.
“We consider ourselves to be very close to being a very good, consistent team and having the ability to compete on any day against the Division One sides.
“But we also know we haven’t proved that consistently yet and the challenge to us is to go out there and bridge that gap.
“The big thing that separates the really top teams from the rest is their conversion rate. For the top sides it is consistently high and they also always punish you off a turnover and then keep you penned in.
“Those few things are what separate the top three or four sides and the next group of teams and those are the things that we have to get better at.”
McMahon and his team-mates were no match for Declan Bonner’s side in last year’s Ulster final, and although the Donegal squad this season is lacking some experienced figures from last season, McMahon is under no illusion that the visitors will come to Brewster Park packing quite a punch.
“When the Championship comes around the first thing you look for is a home draw and every county is the same. But Donegal are Donegal. They have a lot of experience but also a lot of very good young players and we saw how they performed in the latter stages of the League and we also know the task that is ahead of us.”
Fermanagh did get the better of Donegal in their Division Two meeting in February, but their fortunes went in opposite directions in the aftermath as back-to-back defeats saw Fermanagh miss out on promotion, while Donegal’s late surge of wins secured the Division Two title and a place back in Division One.
“I think the way we ended the League was a bit of a sour note to be honest,’’ admits McMahon.
“We would be very disappointed with how we played against both Meath and Armagh, when we had put ourselves in a position to get promotion.
“There would have been very few outside the camp who would have thought that we would have been in with a chance of promotion coming into those last two games, but it is a case of looking at some of the positives from our earlier games while also learning from those last two games where we didn’t play well.
“The League game with Donegal was very important in its own right because it consolidated our position in Division Two, which was very important to us this year.
‘‘But they have so many experienced players to come back into the team, so we are not reading too much into that game.
‘‘The Ulster final last year, we felt that we underperformed on the day, but we still feel that the scoreline does not reflect the way the game went either. But we know the areas that we have to tidy up on and we are working hard to do that.”