Belfast Telegraph

Only Seamie can make this right

By Declan Bogue

In Fermanagh, they still fear to talk of '08. That Ulster final against Armagh. The introduction of Barry Owens that lifted the team to a draw on the first day.

The 36 plays that Ryan McCluskey made, never surrendering possession once. The misses by Marty McGrath that he put right in the second half by booming two points over.

And the replay; Owens' knee twisting when he returned to ground after winning a ball out in front of Francie Bellew. Hope evaporating after Stevie McDonnell buried a rebound past Ronan Gallagher.

What they cringe to think of were the frequency and the number of wides from play and free-kicks.

In the week between the first final and the replay, coaches were brought in to refine their shooting. Then-manager Malachy O'Rourke did everything in his power to correct the wrongs.

They didn't get the returns as Fermanagh hit no fewer than nine wides in the first half of the replay, with three different men handed the burden of free-taking.

The feeling was that Fermanagh were short an eight out of 10 forward; that is, one that would convert eight out of every 10 chances that presented themselves. The phrase back then, used less often nowadays, was a 'marquee' forward.

Ryan Carson was added to the panel and the following year his free-taking was enough to get them over the line in the preliminary round against Down, but not enough to beat Cavan in the first round proper.

O'Rourke took a chance on an unpredictable youngster called Seamus Quigley and called him in for a midweek challenge match against Donegal in Irvinestown.

Donegal gave Fermanagh a serious going over that evening, but Quigley showed what he could do with a couple of outrageous shots from the sideline curling over the crossbar.

From that point to now, Fermanagh have had their marquee forward but through a combination of factors, have never been able to integrate him as a regular player.

In O'Rourke's final year of 2010, he was excluded from the panel after failing to show up at pre-season sessions. Just before the Championship, he was recalled and showed what he could do with a booming trademark point from the sideline. He was left on the bench for too long in the semi-final to have any great influence.

2011 was a write-off for everyone concerned, with several players leaving the panel midway through the league campaign, but Quigley hadn't even got that far, exiting during the McKenna Cup.

The arrival of Peter Canavan came in time for 2012 and it seemed that the prospect of playing under the greatest forward of his era was enough to get the Roslea man's competitive juices flowing and he opened the season in spectacular form, registering 1-8 in his first two games.

However, in the lead-up to the Championship his attendances at training became increasingly erratic. It didn't go down well that he made an appearance in the defeat to Down as a substitute.

After the game, Canavan was asked about the speculation surrounding Quigley but protected his player, claiming instead that a hamstring strain stopped him from starting.

Behind closed doors, Canavan and his backroom were burned. They would not stand for it again and cut him loose from the panel.

Now, we come to this latest scenario.

It would seem that a few careless words between him and manager Pete McGrath blew up spectacularly, but the situation was not helped by a growing resentment from other players in the squad who felt aggrieved about the way Quigley spoke to them.

Attendances at training were also patchy and the latest row was the last straw after the ridiculous scenario of Quigley playing local soccer on the day of a National League game.

It seems unlikely that any manager coming into Fermanagh would want to put himself through this rigmarole and Pete McGrath has confirmed that while Seamus is no longer part of his panel, it is expected that his brothers Sean and Conor may return.

For years now, football followers in Fermanagh have given Seamus serious backing because he delivers incredible scores and richly entertaining performances. He has benefited greatly from having the fatherly influence of Peter McGinnity as manager of his club side Roslea Shamrocks, and together they won three of the last four county Championships.

However, there is a lot more to being an inter-county footballer than just ability. You also need complete discipline, a fastidious attitude to your diet and the will to surrender to a common cause for 11 months of the year.

The pity is that Seamus has never started an Ulster Championship match, that his undoubted skills will never be truly realised and brought to the widest audience possible.

But there's only one man can do anything about that.

Belfast Telegraph

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