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Fermanagh no fourth rate concern

By John Campbell

Fermanagh may have been relegated to Division Four of the National League but there was a silver lining to their disappointing campaign for Barry Mulrone and Paul Ward.

Devenish clubman Mulrone and Derrygonnelly marksman Ward impressed manager Malachy O’Rourke sufficiently to earn Ulster Championship debuts against Cavan and now they are preparing to face an even bigger challenge in tomorrow’s semi-final against confident Monaghan.

Injuries to long-time defensive stalwarts such as Barry Owens, Shane Goan and Peter Sherry forced O’Rourke to amend his rearguard this term and Mulrone, a 24-year-old Quinn Insurance representative, has grabbed his chance in the league with both hands.

And Ward, drafted into the attack on the back of some impressive displays for his club, illuminated the game against Cavan earlier this month with his movement, dexterity and accuracy.

For both players, though, tomorrow will be a major test of their temperament and skills — a fact recognised by manager O’Rourke.

“The fact of the matter is that Monaghan are still a Division One team whereas we have slipped into Division Four,” insists O’Rourke.

“And the way in which they defeated Armagh is proof that they are really up for the Ulster title.

“They have a lot of experience in their side and they also have been showing great fitness levels.”

In overcoming Cavan at the quarter-final stage Fermanagh showed that they had put their depressing league form behind them but Monaghan, experienced and endowed with physicality and flair, will be a much different proposition — a fact, Mulrone insists, that is acknowledged by everyone in the Erne camp.

“Monaghan have a lot of very good players in key positions and they will be well motivated as a team. But we now have more belief in ourselves and we also feel we have the capacity to step up on our showing against Cavan.

“We had four guys myself included who made their championship debuts in that game but we will not be overawed by Monaghan. In fact we are very keen to be pitting ourselves against them,” insists Mulrone.

He knows, however, that Monaghan don’t waste chances.

“They showed against Armagh just how accurate they can be. They were able to take points from both frees and play from all angles so we know that we cannot afford to give them any freedom.

“We will be up for the challenge and if we can settle quickly, keep our composure and take our chances anything could happen,” adds Mulrone.

And while he will be doing his best to restrict the Monaghan attack, at the other end of the park Ward will be striving to replicate the form that saw him snap up three exquisite points from play in a scintillating display against Cavan.

Monaghan: D Hughes, D McArdle, JP Mone, C Walshe, D Freeman, V Corey, G McQuaid, D Clerkin, O Lennon, S Gallogly, P Finlay, K Hughes, C Hanratty, C McManus, T Freeman.

Fermanagh: R Gallagher, N Bogue, S Lyons, B Mulrone, D Ward, R McCluskey. T McElroy, J Sherry, M McGrath, D Keenan, R Carson, M Little, P Ward, R Gallagher, C O.Brien.

Belfast Telegraph

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