GAA Football

Fermanagh must fast-track St Michael's talent: Rory Gallagher

Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher feels that the county setup must bring in the best of the St Michael's Enniskillen Hogan Cup winning team as soon as possible. Picture by Philip Walsh

FERMANAGH boss Rory Gallagher believes that fast-tracking a litany of this year’s successful St Michael’s Enniskillen team into the county setup is the only option for the county.

A range of players stood out during the school’s run to a first ever Hogan Cup in spring, an achievement made all the greater by the fact that their team was exclusively made up of Fermanagh-born players.

Gallagher admits that recent experiences have convinced him that the best way for those young talents to fulfil their potential is to become part of the senior setup as soon as possible.

“We made a mistake not having Jonny Cassidy and Darragh McGurn and Shane McGullion not in the panel last year. They would have developed.

“Ultan Kelm was in last year and he wouldn’t be where he is today if he wasn’t in 12 months earlier.

“There’s no doubt, in other counties 17-year-olds can wait, but it’s my understanding that Fermanagh, and those fellas, are better off if they’re training in the environment of a county setup.

“Fermanagh picks from 20 clubs, so we have to make the most of every one of those players. There are very few other secondary schools competing at a high level, so those players will be integral to us going forward.

“St Michael’s has always been a hotbed, previously you had other schools feeding players but not so much now. Some of the other schools have even closed since I was playing.”

The Ernemen were perceived to have drawn the short straw when they pulled the only Division One side in the first round qualifier draw.

Not only that, but Monaghan would have all the motivation in the world after last summer’s shock Ulster semi-final defeat in Omagh.

Fermanagh will go in as underdogs once more, just as they did against a Donegal side that finished a single place above them in the league.

They lost that game by six points after a late, wind-assisted flourish from Declan Bonner’s side, but the tenor of the game in general was a far cry from last summer’s Ulster final whitewash.

Gallagher feels that his team retains the potential to keep improving and that he wants their current level to become the norm for the county in years to come.

“I don’t know how long I’m going to be managing Fermanagh. Going forward, I don’t want Fermanagh to be seen as punching above their weight.

“The challenge for any county is to get to a level where you’re good enough. We went five games unbeaten in Division Two.

“The year before we got a wee bit of credit because we’d put in a massive winter. This year, we didn’t put in a massive winter, far from it.

“I thought the boys performed very well, and if we could be more clinical up front, we wouldn’t be too far away from where we’d want to be.”

He gives Sean Quigley a “70-80 per cent” chance of playing on Sunday afternoon, though poured cold water on Martin McHugh’s claim that the Roslea man had been put in a hotel for two weeks and trained three times a day.

The former Donegal player and manager made the statement during commentary on BBC NI last weekend, but Gallagher said that while Quigley had been going to the hotel to train and eat, he hadn’t stayed.

“He did a bit of rehab in the mornings, a bit of work because he couldn’t run [towards the end of the league]. Some off-field conditioning, maybe had breakfast and then back and did another session.

“That was all. It’s what most players do when they’re bursting to get back.”

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