GAA Football

There will never be another Ryan McCluskey: Ex-Fermanagh ace Marty O'Brien

Ryan McCluskey had all the attributes of a top class inter-county defender

THE inter-county scene won’t see the likes of Ryan McCluskey again, says former Fermanagh team-mate Marty O’Brien, after the veteran defender announced his retirement after 19 years of service, writes Brendan Crossan.

The 37-year-old Enniskillen Gaels man leaves the stage as the longest serving inter-county player in the game.

O’Brien, who played county football with McCluskey for six years, says nobody gave more to Fermanagh in trying to win an Ulster title.

“Ryan’s contribution every year was huge on and off the pitch,” he said. “He was one of the biggest leaders in the team. He was always captain material from the first year I got there and was one of the biggest characters we had.”

McCluskey announced his decision to step down on Twitter yesterday, writing: “It’s been one hell of a pleasure.”

He was called into the Erne senior panel by the late Pat King in 1999 and claimed a starting spot two years later under Mayo man John Maughan.

McCluskey was a key member of the 2004 side that reached the All-Ireland semi-finals and was still at his peak four years later when Armagh denied them a first Ulster title after a replay.

The former Cliftonville and Dungannon Swifts soccer player made only fleeting appearances in Fermanagh’s League campaign this season and was on the periphery of the side that reached the Ulster final.

“With the way county careers are going now, for him to keep himself in top shape for that length of was unbelievable,” O’Brien added.

“He was always very professional… You think about boys starting out now and how long will it last. His length of service is a thing of the past because careers are ending earlier and earlier.”

O’Brien fully expects his Fermanagh team-mate to pursue a career in football management.

“He’s seen a lot in his time, and managers he played under would have drawn on his experience. I would imagine he’ll definitely go down that line [football management] and probably make a good hand of it too.”

In an interview with The Irish News in June, McCluskey hinted 2018 would be his final year with Fermanagh.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed it – I wouldn't mind a testimonial coming up like those soccer boys. Maybe I'd be entitled to two!"

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