GAA Football

Criticism nothing new to Fermanagh football boss Ryan McMenamin

Ryan McMenamin (top) achieved success alongside Joe McMahon (right) with Tyrone, and now they've teamed up to manager Fermanagh.

NEW Fermanagh boss Ryan McMenamin has already passed one tricky managerial task, although he modestly disagrees with that assessment.

His role in charge of the Erne county senior footballers will run in tandem with continuing to oversee the St Macartan’s, Clogher ladies footballers – who included his wife Maura.

He chuckles when that subject is mentioned, replying: “I don’t think I’ve passed that test. There’ve been some times when there’ve been long silences at home afterwards.

“She would get rid of me all right, quick enough. They’ve a championship semi-final on Sunday, it’ll be a tough one against Errigal.”

Tyrone legend ‘Ricey’ has at least been largely warmly welcomed as Fermanagh manager, stepping up from assistant to succeed Rory Gallagher.

He mentions a congratulatory WhatsApp message from former county boss Dominic Corrigan, who’s still boosting Fermanagh by moulding young footballers at St Michael’s, Enniskillen.

They won the Hogan Cup for the first time early this year, but despite the promise offered by that team they will have to wait for senior involvement.

Perhaps that explains why a couple of them did provide some internal criticism, as McMenamin reveals with a laugh:

“I was chatting to a couple of them on Saturday, they gave me a wee bit of lip, a bit of slagging, I’d a bit of craic with them. I’ve been introduced to a few of them, but it’s a big step up to the seniors, hopefully their time will come.

“I’ve seen young fellas in the mid-20s range who are standing out in club football. Fermanagh have a small playing base but their top players are good, skilful footballers.”

McMenamin himself has to make a step up too. Yet although he’s adamant that he isn’t going to change, he also insists that he will still be the boss in the new set-up.

‘Ricey’ will have Paul McIver alongside him, who previously managed him at Dromore, as well as his former Tyrone team-mate Joe McMahon.

Both will have their say in the Erne County – but McMenamin will be the main man, following his elevation from being assistant to Rory Gallagher for the past two seasons.

That doesn’t mean he’s planning to lay down the law to players. McMenamin is a much more affable character than many see on the pitch or on the sidelines, even if he does declare that “Joe’s jokes are horrible.”

McMenamin is ready for greater scrutiny, perhaps more serious criticism of himself, noting: “In the GAA, the man behind the man always seems to get the praise, it’s a bit odd, so Paul will probably be getting any plaudits.

“But I’m not going to change my personality because I’m a manager now. I’ll probably do things a little bit differently, take a step back from the coaching at times – but I’m not going to try to be someone that I’m not, like Rory Gallagher or Mickey Harte.

“You wouldn’t be true to yourself. The players know me, I’ve been working with a lot of them for two years. They know what’s expected of them and I know what’s expected of myself.”

Some may wonder how the trio will work as a management team, especially as McIver once was McMenamin’s boss at Dromore, but ‘Ricey’ believes the others can only bring benefits to Fermanagh.

“There’ll be a role for Paul, speaking to the players more. Paul brings a wealth of experience, he’s won a few county championships.

“He’s going to bring a fresh pair of eyes; he’s been watching our match videos and he’s already been torturing me about what we can do better.

“Tactically he’s very good, very aware of how we can set up and how the opposition set up. He’ll be a good sounding board. He’s already brought to light a couple of players who haven’t been on the panel before.

“Big Joe has been coaching for years, and he too will bring a different voice, a different coaching approach to me and Rory.

“He’s a fantastic coach – he has Clogher flying high [in Tyrone Division Two] when many people expected them to be going down. He’s not backward in coming forward. He’ll bring a good style of play.”

Having said all that, McMenamin will still have the final say when it comes to team selections and so on, he confirms: “Oh, definitely. When I talked to the boys about what they wanted out of this, I said ‘If you’re involved in this you have to have a say’.

“I had as much say as Rory – but the final call did come down to him. It’s good to have more voices, but when it comes to making decisions I don’t mind making that call.”

Although he knows he’ll be judged on results, there’s a quiet confidence about McMenamin and what he can achieve with Fermanagh.

“We played a friendly against Dublin early in the year, and our boys noticed how the likes of John Small was in great nick, even after a team holiday, flying up the pitch.”

He is happy with the backing provided by the county board, even if Fermanagh’s resources are smaller than many others. Besides, he points out: “It’s not all about the money, it’s about the coaching and what the players put into it.

“The Fermanagh boys want to get better. They’re the same as any county footballer – and they do want to win”.

That’s just as well given that McMenamin is the main man who’ll be shouting at them from the sidelines this season.

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