GAA Football

Ryan McMenamin hits back at John McEntee's criticism of Fermanagh's 'darker edge'

Fermanagh assistant manager Ryan 'Ricey' McMenamin celebrates with Ryan McCluskey and Éamonn Maguire following the Ulster semi-final win over Monagha Picture by Philip Walsh
Padraig O Meiscill

FERMANAGH assistant manager Ryan McMenamin has defended the Erne footballers from accusations they have developed a “darker edge” on their way to next weekend’s Ulster SFC final.

In Rory Gallagher’s first year at the helm, Fermanagh reached their first provincial decider since 2008 with a surprise win over Monaghan at Healy Park a fortnight ago.

Since that win, the Erne county have come in for criticism for playing ultra-defensive football and, writing in The Irish News earlier this week, John McEntee alleged Gallagher’s side “have a darker edge to them other Fermanagh teams lacked but which has formed part of their winning formula”.

When asked about the comments, three-time All-Ireland winner McMenamin was dismissive: “I don’t care. I didn’t see it, but I was told about it. It is what it is,” he said.

“I know John McEntee and I played against Cross a few times and it wasn’t all fun. A lot of the pundits out there, the way they’re claiming the way football should be played, a lot of them are feeling like they’re whiter than white.

“John has a vested interest, he is Clontibret’s manager, so he has a vested interest in keeping the Clontibret boys happy and to be seen to be looking after them.”

While four of the Monaghan panel against Fermanagh, including talisman Conor McManus, hailed from Clontibret, McEntee would no doubt rebut the charge of having a dog in this particular fight. As for ‘Ricey’, he had more choice words for those alleged to be running down Fermanagh’s style of play.

“You have to remember where we’re coming from,” he added.

“We’ve worked really, really hard on the attacking play, worked hard on the defensive play. I know a lot of pundits say football’s not enjoyable, football should be enjoyable. Football’s not enjoyable for these boys if they’re getting beat all the time.

“You look at Carlow, Longford and, if Fermanagh went out 15-on-15 and got beat, you’d have the same pundits saying they should have brought a bit of aggression, they should have brought men back. But when they do that, they’re saying they’re not attacking enough.

“Every man has got his opinion, but it seems we have a lot of people making calls and they are all pundits from the top counties, my own county as well. But they’re all thinking they know what’s better for the GAA and they think they know, looking down, that you shouldn’t play defensive football. And we just point down to Clare against Kerry and the 32 points [that the Kingdom beat Clare by in the Munster SFC].

“I mean, you have to remember there’s 20 clubs in Fermanagh. We have a smaller player base, smaller resources, we don’t get away to our foreign trips, unlike other counties that we’ve beat. The way I look at it, it seems like it’s a crime to work hard.

“Put it in context, Fermanagh’s only got to six finals in 120 years – and I have been in six finals. So take it from the context of where Fermanagh’s coming from and what they’re doing.”

When asked his opinion of Sean Cavanagh’s comments regarding Mickey Harte’s use of the attacking talent available to him in Tyrone, former Red Hand star ‘Ricey’ opted to remain diplomatic, perhaps wary of firmly picking a side between a former team-mate and a former manager. 

He did, however, suggest Cavanagh’s comments could have been better timed.

“Sean has his opinion, Mickey has his opinion,” McMenamin said.

“Probably, Sean’s statement didn’t come out at the right time, especially with Tyrone coming up to the Championship match against Monaghan. It could have been handled better but, look, it is what it is.

“He said it, he can’t take it back, no matter if he wanted to or not. I probably thought the timing of it was wrong and also because he wasn’t too long out of the dressing-room because he would have been leading those boys nine months ago.

“But Sean is his own man, he makes his own calls and I’m not here to defend him or criticise him. He is big enough and old enough to get himself out of the handlings.”


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