Former Tyrone ace Ronan O'Neill impressed with Fermanagh quality
FORMER Tyrone forward Ronan O’Neill openly confesses to having a deeper appreciation of Fermanagh football since joining Kieran Donnelly’s backroom team this year – and has hailed the “magic” of Sean Quigley.
The Ernemen got their NFL Division Three campaign off to a flyer in Ederney last Saturday with a comprehensive win over Longford and they’ll be hoping to back that up against Offaly in Tullamore on Sunday.
After announcing his inter-county retirement 12 months ago, O’Neill gave his full focus to his club St Enda’s, Omagh before his former schoolteacher and friend Kieran Donnelly pitched the idea of becoming part of his backroom team in Fermanagh.
“Flattered” at the offer, O’Neill took a few weeks before deciding to accept.
“I’ve known Kieran for a long time,” O’Neill said.
“He would’ve been my school teacher for seven years and we clicked ever since. I went back to the Brothers [Omagh CBS] to do a placement year. I was in and out of the school as a sub teacher and we kept in contact.
“When Kieran rang I don’t know whether I half knew what he was going to ask me. It was June time and I took three or four weeks to think about it.
“But it was a win-win with the split season and having the opportunity to being exposed to a very high level of coaching was an easy decision to make.
“I was flattered - 30 years of age going in as a coach. It was extremely thoughtful and very much appreciated to invite me in.”
O’Neill has been working with the Fermanagh forwards for the most part since taking up his coaching role and has been blown away by Quigley’s ability.
The Roslea attacking ace converted seven points in Fermanagh’s opening day win, his first appearance of the year in the green jersey.
“I can’t coach what Sean Quigley has,” O’Neill insisted.
“He can do everything. He has everything in his locker. We’d be the same age. We get on well with each other.
“With the ball in his hands he can thread a pass through an eye of a needle or he can take a score off either side, or he’ll do something magical.
“You just want to give him more tools to go and flourish, give him wee pointers of maybe playing closer to goal where he’s more effective rather coming out with the ball. But he is quality.
“To be honest, I can see a bit of me in him. Hopefully now he has a big year ahead of him as he’s just come off a longstanding injury and is out the other side of it now. If Sean can keep on top of that and stay injury-free, he’ll be a massive bonus for Fermanagh.”
O’Neill, who got married late last year, admits he has a far higher opinion of Fermanagh football than before he became involved in the managerial set-up.
“When you were playing for Tyrone, you looked at Fermanagh and thought they’re maybe not quite there, then you go in and they are there. There’s quality in abundance.
“You see it every week, they look after themselves, they do everything right. There are some phenomenal players who would get on any Division One team: Sean Quigley is an obvious one.
“Johnny Cassidy had an exceptional club campaign with Enniskillen Gaels and is a top defender. Luke Flanagan, Brandon Horan - all these boys.
“It’s just a matter of instilling that belief and confidence and getting a bit of a run going in this division. But you look at some of the teams in Division Three and it’s going to be really, really tight.”
Meanwhile, Fermanagh defender Che Cullen is expected to miss two or three weeks after straining a hamstring during last weekend's win over Longford.