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GAA Football

Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher savours victory after thrilling win over Monaghan

Rory Gallagher celebrates with his young son Seanie at the final whistle of yesterday's victory for Fermanagh over Monaghan Picture by Oliver McVeigh/ Sportsfile
Andy Watters

Ulster Senior Football Championship semi-final: Fermanagh 1-8 Monaghan 0-10

YEEEOOOOOOOO!!!! An unbridled roar of delight came from the Fermanagh dressing room and it summed up what yesterday’s thrilling win meant to them.

Meanwhile, out on the Healy Park pitch – where Eoin Donnelly had leapt highest to punch the ball into the Monaghan net a few minutes earlier – the Fermanagh fans celebrated.

“Commmme on you boys in green, commmmme on you boys in green…” sang young and old.

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Manager Rory Gallagher, the architect of the success, had a beaming smile on his face when he reflected on the one-point win that booked his county a place in the Ulster final on June 24.

“Massive resolve, character, heart…” said the Belleek native.

“That’s the wee bit of unknown. You’re emerging, you’re doing okay in Division Three but can they go to the pin of their collar on a day like today against a top team?

“The boys hung in there and even if we’d come out on the wrong side, we’d have been delighted (with their character). But they came out on the right side.”

Pre-game favourites Monaghan led by two points in injury-time when Ryan Jones floated one of those timeless high balls into the square and Donnelly beat Rory Beggan to the punch to send it flashing into the net.

“The man was out on his feet,” said Gallagher.

“Then you move him to full-forward and he comes up with something – he just has a warrior-like attitude and I’m pleased for him, I’m pleased for all the players.

“I remembered the 2008 game against Derry when Barry Owens scored. It’s old school, but if you have a big man in the square, something can happen.”

The final act may been “old school” but once again this summer, Fermanagh employed a carefully constructed gameplan. The Ernemen met Monaghan square on when they pushed forward, clogged up the space in front of their posts and harried them into regular mistakes. They led by two at break and, although Monaghan’s subs almost turned the tide, Fermanagh would not to be denied.

“This isn’t a young team,” said Gallagher.

“There’s boys there like Eoin Donnelly who celebrated his 30th birthday, I played with Barry Mulrone, Ryan Jones was on the panel when I last played, Sean (Quigley) is in the panel a long time and the two McCuskers (Declan and Paul).

“I just think it’s great for them. They’re really good lads, they’re serious about their football, they want to enjoy it and they can look forward to a brilliant three weeks.”

He added: “People seem to think all we do is run, which is absolutely crazy. They have become a smarter team.

“We worked hard on cutting out mistakes and we worked hard on their skill level and it’s a credit to them. The job Che Cullen did on Conor McManus was phenomenal, to bring that level of man-marking into your game… Lee Cullen on Kieran Hughes…

“Conor McCarthy didn’t have a big impact, Jack McCarron didn’t have a big impact… The marking has improved massively as well.”

Up next is the Anglo-Celt decider against the winners of Down and Donegal. Gallagher’s men will approach it with the confidence of a team that, according to this year’s Championship script, aren’t supposed to be there.

“You have to embrace life and you have to embrace football and there’s no joy if you don’t enjoy winning,” said Gallagher.

“They enjoyed their win against Armagh, they had a night out and they went back at it the next day.

“They’re just good lads, they’re entitled to enjoy it and that’s the test, if they’re not able to handle it then they’re not much good to me.”

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