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GAA Football

Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher plays down Donegal connection

Rory Gallagher will lead Fermanagh into an Ulster final against Donegal on Sunday, June 24 Picture by Philip Walsh
Cahair O'Kane

RORY Gallagher says the fact that he’s trained a handful of Donegal players as many as 800 times means any advantage he might have had from his days there will be negligible.

The Belleek native has guided Fermanagh to a first Ulster final in 10 years, chopping a Monaghan side being touted as potential All-Ireland contenders at the knees.

Fate would have done no less than to put him in against Donegal, whom he trained alongside Jim McGuinness between 2011 and 2013, winning an All-Ireland and two Ulster titles, before taking the reins himself from 2015 to 2017.

No manager could be better placed to try and disrupt the Tír Chonaill flow but the core group in their panel will know his methods every bit as well as he knows theirs.

“I could have trained Frank [McGlynn] 700, 800 times. There’s not much he doesn’t know about me. Michael [Murphy] the same, Paddy McGrath, all those fellas.

“I know Michael, Neil [McGee], Karl [Lacey] will be having a chat. Frank. They are big players. Michael, Frank and Neil will have a chat, they’ll go to Karl and they’ll have a chat about what way to do things. That’s the way they work.”

Fermanagh’s defensive performance against Monaghan saw them keep Malachy O’Rourke’s side to just 0-10, but neither they nor Tyrone have the attacking artillery that Declan Bonner’s men possess.

Donegal have hit 6-58 on their merry way to their seventh provincial decider in eight years, with Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty both firing on all cylinders.

“We like to live in the real world. Monaghan, much to I’m sure Malachy and his management team’s annoyance, were being talked up and hyped up and hyped up. Every single day is different. That’s the fun of sport. That’s the fun of us being able to compete.

“Donegal have loads of attacking players. Everybody knows about Michael, Patrick, Jamie Brennan’s come on. Michael Langan, Odhran Mac Niallais, Ryan, Frank’s an attacker. Serious ability. Everybody knows that. But every day is different.”

The Ernemen have won their two games with a grand total of 1-20 scored, but Gallagher says the idea that they’ll change things up to throw Donegal off is unrealistic.

“There is no point coming up with a curveball unless it’s good enough. There is no point being different for the sake of it. You’ve got to be very good at what you’re doing.

“You’ve got to be better than the next team at what you’re doing. It’s not necessarily about something new. But if there is something new, we’ll try and come up with that as well.”

Meanwhile, the longest serving player in inter-county football, Ryan McCluskey, is facing a nervous wait to find out whether he can be involved in the decider.

The Enniskillen Gaels man, who was first on the Fermanagh panel in 1999, has been handed a proposed eight-week ban after referee Conor Lane sent him to the stands while he operated as a water carrier against Monaghan.

McCluskey was togged out that afternoon wearing number 26 but his proposed suspension is as a team official.

If upheld, he would be precluded from any involvement with the team next Sunday, but the respective hearings committees may have a hard time making it stick given that he was listed as a player on the day.

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