GAA Football

Fermanagh full-back Che Cullen says Ryan McMenamin is the man to carry on Rory Gallagher's good work as Erne County manager

Fermanagh's Che Cullen bursts through a tackle made by Monaghan's Stephen O'Hanlon as Fermanagh take on Monaghan in this year's Ulster Championship. Picture by Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

FERMANAGH full-back Che Cullen says Ryan McMenamin is the right man to carry on Rory Gallagher’s good work as Erne County manager.

Belnaleck clubman Cullen, who made a 3,000-mile round trip back and forth from Budapest, Hungary to line-out for the Ernemen in the League and Championship last season, is confident that former Tyrone All-Ireland winner ‘Ricey’ is the man to to succeed Gallagher and build on what he achieved over the past two seasons.

McMenamin served as Gallagher’s assistant, working primarily as Fermanagh’s defensive coach, after joining his backroom team for the start of the 2017 season as Cullen and his team-mates progressed from Division Three to third place in Division Two last year, narrowly missing out on promotion to the top flight.

In the Championship, Fermanagh made light of meagre resources in terms of playing numbers by developing an effective gameplan that saw them beat Armagh and Monaghan and reach the 2018 Ulster final against Donegal.

Gallagher stepped down from the role last month and Cullen, the rock of the Fermanagh defence at full-back, says McMenamin is the man to continue his county’s upward momentum.

“I’d love to see Ricey get it,” he said.

“He brought a lot to us over the last two years. I worked with him a lot because he was our defensive coach and I learned a lot off him.

“I think he’d be a good Fermanagh manager so, why not?”

Gallagher’s departure has left Cullen facing an uncertain future as an inter-county player. He is based in Budapest where he works as a software engineer for First Derivatives and was persuaded to return home for games by Gallagher and McMenamin throughout last season.

But being based in Budapest meant he was unable to attend training sessions and a new manager might not be happy with that arrangement.

“I’ll have to wait and see who becomes the manager,” said Cullen when asked if he expected to continue as Fermanagh’s Hungary-based number three.

“Rory and Ricey were very flexible about me coming home but you don’t know who is going to be in the hotseat next year. Will they be willing to fly me home for games? Are the flexible enough to understand that I won’t be doing the same intense training as the rest of the lads?

“I’ll have to wait and see, it’s all down to the person who comes in next year I guess. If Ricey is the manager then I’d say I’ll be coming home for games next year.”

Cullen admits he was surprised that Gallagher made the decision to step down as manager of his native county. The Belleek native has been linked with a switch to Monaghan but has yet to confirm his future plans in football.

“We were very surprised to see Rory go; we didn’t really see it coming,” he said.

“I thought he’d give it another year but maybe he wanted another challenge. I’m not sure what lies ahead for him but he put in serious work over the last two years, he really made us competitive and getting us to an Ulster final was brilliant.

“Granted we didn’t perform on the day but it was still a brilliant achievement to take us from Division Three to Division Two and then nearly up to Division One. He’ll be missed, big time.”

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