GAA Football

Thought of making history appeals to Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher

Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher. Picture by Philip Walsh

RORY Gallagher says that the appeal of taking the Fermanagh job was heightened by the prospect of being the first man ever to guide them to an Ulster title.

Sunday’s clash with his former Donegal charges will be only the Erne county’s sixth ever appearance in a provincial final, with their last coming in 2008 when they lost to Armagh after a replay.

Fermanagh will head to Clones as an unfancied underdog, but having already disposed of title favourites Monaghan in the semi-final, Gallagher feels the squad at his disposal is of the right age profile to get across the line.

“It [the fact that they’ve never won Ulster] probably makes the appeal of doing the job at the start even better.

“Coming out of Donegal, having been involved seven years non-stop. You’re looking forward to a wee bit of a break. I’d still count myself as fairly young, saying, ‘Look, I’ll go back and look at that in maybe four or five years’ time. Look at a few different coaching methods, learn a bit more.

“Then the opportunity came up and you look at the players I felt they had.

“I said to myself, “If I’m going to do this, maybe now is the time because in two or three years’ time the team will have broken up.’ I felt they were at a good age.

“They weren’t dependent on any 18, 19 or 20-year-olds. They weren’t too old. There were very few Ryan [McCluskeys], the oldest by a mile. Eoin [Donnelly] might be the next oldest at 30 years of age. So I felt the age profile was very good.”

McCluskey is the longest serving player in inter-county football and his hopes of being involved in the decider and winning that elusive Ulster medal have been given a boost after his proposed suspension was thrown out.

He had been hit with an eight-week ban after being sent to the stands against Monaghan while operating as a water carrier, but having been togged out and listed at number 26 in the squad on the day, the ban was never likely to stick.

McCluskey and Eamon Maguire, who rejoined the panel this season after a long absence, are the only two players remaining that played in the 2008 deciders.

“Football’s funny. I stopped playing for Fermanagh in 2010 and got involved with Donegal, and I didn’t give Fermanagh a second thought." - Rory Gallagher on moving on from Donegal and why the window for success with Fermanagh is short

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