GAA Football

McMenamin hoping Fermanagh keep impressive home record going

Fermanagh have lost just twice at home under Rory Gallagher and Ryan McMenamin, and both were McKenna Cup games.

WHEN Rory Gallagher and Ryan McMenamin came into Fermanagh, one of the first things they told the players was that they needed Brewster Park to become a fortress.

Since the beginning of their regime, the Ernemen have played 13 competitive games in their home ground. The only two they’ve lost were McKenna Cup games, namely a 2018 semi-final to Tyrone and this year’s group game to Derry.

They’re unbeaten at home in league and championship during that time, beating Armagh, Monaghan, Kildare and Clare among others, while drawing with the Orchard and Cork.

“That’s not down to us, it’s down to the players that have made it that way,” says Erne coach McMenamin.

“You always want to win your home games no matter what. We said to the boys when we started that we wanted Brewster Park to be a place that people don’t like coming.

“You can only do that by winning your games, and again that’s just down to the players. We maybe give them a framework to do it and they go at it.

”We know ourselves that it doesn’t matter where it is if you don’t bring it on the day, you’re not going to win.

“We’re lucky enough that the players, barring one game against Derry that they didn’t play well, have done well in Brewster.

“It’s a testament to the players and hopefully it can keep on going. It will be a tough one against Donegal.”

Ten months ago, Fermanagh rocked up to a sunny St Tiernach’s Park for a first Ulster final in a decade, hoping that it might finally be the day when they win that elusive provincial title.

Arlene Foster had hardly settled in her seat than Eoghan Bán Gallagher was slipping in at the far post to palm home a goal. Then Ryan McHugh, the man they couldn’t contain in any shape or form, got a second.

Fermanagh’s contain-and-counter gameplan had been laid to waste inside 20 minutes. It never seemed like they had anything else.

“Probably when you’re playing and you’re in that situation there’s something you can do, but it’s a lonely enough place out there when you’re playing and getting beat by 8 or 9 points,” says McMenamin.

“It’s hard to take when you’re coaching or managing because there’s nothing you can do really, you’re just hoping for the best. You try to make a few changes to get a bit of traction, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

“That day we were beat by the better team, the far better team. It was one of those days that you were glad to hear the final whistle and head on into the changing rooms.”

While the National League can be at times be a false barometer for summer, the most impressive thing about Fermanagh’s league win in Letterkenny in February was that they came from behind to do it.

Five points down in the first half, they kept their heads to outscore Donegal 0-9 to 0-2 in the second half. The narrative since has largely revolved around the Tír Chonaill side finishing with 13 men, but they only played that way for the last 10 minutes.

They had been down to 14 since the 19th minute, but alongside the late rallies against Tipperary, Cork and Kildare in the league, the signs were that they’d learnt how to chase a game.

“The players were disappointed with the way they played in that Ulster final and we, as a management, were disappointed with the way we dealt with things. Looking back at the review of it, we felt we could have been better.

“The players have learnt from it. The younger boys have come in and bought into what we’re about. On the day, you’re hoping stuff goes right for you.”

Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty weren’t in the Donegal team for the league game three months ago, but equally Eoin Donnelly, Mickey Jones and Barry Mulrone were absent for Fermanagh.

Murphy has usually had Ché Cullen for company in recent meetings between the two and there’s no reason to see that changing, with the Belnaleck man having done fairly well on him.

“Che has done well on him. Che’s a very good footballer as he showed against Conor McManus as well, he’s a top-quality defender.

“But if you concentrate too much on Michael Murphy, you’ll have Patrick McBrearty, you’ll have Ryan McHugh, you’ll have Eoghan Ban will always pop up, Daire Ó Baoill as well.

“They’ve top quality players all over the field. We’ll look at our gameplan and take it first, and hopefully Michael has a cold in the week leading up to it or something,” joked the former Tyrone defender.

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