Adrian Logan: Fermanagh the headline act in Ulster
Published 23/06/2008 | 01:00
Ring out the old. The Ulster Championship is clearly the only show in town and right now top billing goes to Fermanagh.
What a performance in Healy Park.
Hats off to a Fermanagh side who — contrary to all the so-called expert opinion (myself included) £ always believed they could win this game.
There are so many fans in the county who have never experienced an Ulster final before; the last time was in 1982.
Fermanagh won well on Saturday. In fact they should have won by a lot more. That's a worry for manager Malachy O Rourke. He will be looking at the way they allowed Derry to come onto his side in those dying moments.
There were many candidates for man of the match but for me keeper Ronan Gallagher was the difference, keeping his team in it with a wonderful penalty save.
At that stage Derry were rampant and Fermanagh were struggling. That penalty save effectively turned the game.
Fermanagh fear no one and once the confidence levels began to rise so too did the performance. Their fitness levels, too, are second to none. The programme worked out by former Irish fitness guru Mickey McGurn has been paying off.
Gallagher was again in action in the second half with another wonderful reaction save when a Derry goal looked on.
Fermanagh have a freshness, the same sort of freshness that brought Down through against Tyrone. Like Down, Fermanagh seemed to want it more and it was fully deserved.
The Ulster Championship is the only place to be this summer. Last week we had Down fans running onto Pairc Esler celebrating like they'd won the All Ireland, and we had repeat scenes in Omagh. No other province has come close. From a neutral point of view, it was great to see, but away from the romance Fermanagh need now to stand up and win their first Ulster title.
The last time they made any impression was back in the 80s — that's too long by any standards.
In Marty McGrath they have a captain who believes and that resonates throughout the squad. Malachy O'Rourke is a new kid on the block in county managment and that's something you should never dismiss. First year managers normally do well and Malachy is a case in point. He has won club titles in several counties as a boss but this is now the big time.
The problem for Fermanagh is that the Ulster title can now become too big of a prize. If a team can take on and beat the likes of Monaghan and Derry, they have to be serious contenders in the race for the Sam Maguire. Fermanagh should take note of that. The days of dreaming are long gone. They are a team to be reckoned with and they and their supporters should act accordingly. They need an Ulster title all right, but the story shouldn't be allowed to stop there.
They face either Armagh or Down in the July decider. It will be quite a task. Carlsberg normally don't do Fermanagh weekends, but if they did . . .