GAA Football

Fermanagh must move on from Armagh win insists Declan McCusker

Mark Shields attempts to hold up Declan McCusker during Saturday night's Ulster Championship clash at Brewster Park. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

WITH the days ticking down towards their Ulster semi-final date with neighbours Monaghan, Declan McCusker insists Fermanagh must quickly move on from Saturday’s upset victory over Armagh.

The Ernemen were available at odds of around 2/1 to beat the Orchardmen, who were unbeaten from the counties’ two previous meetings this year – a dour draw in Enniskillen and victory in the Division Three final at Croke Park.

But it was Rory Gallagher’s men who came up trumps when it really mattered, setting up a last four clash with the Farneymen – conquerors of defending champions Tyrone in Omagh on Sunday – in 12 days’ time.

Monaghan had nine points to spare when the counties met in an Ulster Championship last year and Fermanagh will start as even bigger underdogs this time around, with odds of 4/1 available.

Therefore McCusker was adamant Fermanagh couldn’t afford to dwell on the memories of a famous night at Brewster Park.

“Definitely not,” said the Ederney man, whose tireless work and clever runs were a feature of the Erne County’s success.

“It’s nice to win a quarter-final or a first round, whatever you want to call it, but that’s all it is. You don’t get any medals for that and we’ll not get much recognition around the country for beating Armagh.

“We’ve a semi-final in two weeks and that’s going to be a completely different ball game. It’s going to be a huge step up so we just have to knuckle down now and prepare for that.

“There’ll be no celebrating, the Championship’s short and the games come thick and fast so we’ve two weeks to get ready for them and we’ll do everything we can.”

McCusker’s only previous Ulster Championship wins in green came against Antrim so, as Gallagher said afterwards, Saturday’s win was the breakthrough they have been waiting for.

Despite making progress during Pete McGrath’s tenure they failed to make an impression at provincial level, and Gallagher admitted it had been an aim since the start of the year to beat “a team that was ranked above them”.

And while Armagh may have had the upper hand through the spring, the Ernemen learned their lessons from those earlier games – especially the Division Three decider.

“We’ve been working hard and we identified a few areas where they got the better of us in the League final,” added McCusker.

“We were a lot more composed on the ball than we were in the League final. That day we were very bad on the ball, we gave them the ball then they were hitting us when we weren’t set up and that cost us big time.

“Today we were much better set up and we used the ball better, which meant they couldn’t hit us on the counter-attack as often as they did in the League final.

“I don’t think they were as dominant at midfield, we did a bit of work on that. We’ve been looking at them all year, we played them twice in the League and we always knew from the start of the year we were preparing for Championship.

“Thankfully we got it right on the day, which was the most important one.”

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