Fermanagh ready to take that final leap
Ryan McCluskey does not do excuses nor does he wallow in self-pity.
Having soldiered at the coal face for Fermanagh for the best part of a decade, he has known his share of bad days along with the occasional flirtation with glory.
So when the Ernesiders found themselves marooned in Division Four of the Allianz Football League, skipper McCluskey was the first to roll up his sleeves and lead the team’s revival.
“It was players like me who got Fermanagh into Division Four and it was up to us to get ourselves out of the division and, thankfully, we have achieved that. I know that some people were blaming management and other factors in the recent past but ultimately it is really players who determine a team’s fate,” says the straight-speaking centre-half-back.
It’s hardly surprising then that schoolteacher McCluskey, is delighted to be leading Fermanagh out today for the Division Four final against Wicklow.
“It’s a long time since Fermanagh collected a piece of silverware and we want to make the most of our opportunity tomorrow. Our players have worked very hard since the start of this year and while we were maybe lucky enough in a couple of our games, I think that we achieved a level of consistency that stood to us,” observes McCluskey.
Unbeaten in eight games, Fermanagh’s unblemished record will be put to the test against a Wicklow side that embraces skill and steel in equal measure.
The Ernesiders though will enter the fray buoyed by the motivational skills and tactical acumen of manager Peter Canavan.
“Peter has turned things round for us. He wields a very big influence and has helped to bring Fermanagh into the national spotlight again. There is not much he does not know about winning at Croke Park,” states McCluskey.
He makes no bones about his desire to see the team win, particularly for longer serving players such as Barry Owens, Tommy McElroy, Niall Bogue, Damien Kelly, Shane Lyons and others.
“A lot of players in this side have given great commitment to Fermanagh over the years without having anything tangible to show for their efforts. This final against Wicklow gives us the chance to see they get some sort of reward,” says McCluskey.
But Wicklow manager Harry Murphy, whose side includes a raft of experience best epitomised by Darren Hayden, Seanie Furlong, Leighton Glynn and Tony Hannon, has observed their growing maturity and greater cohesion over the course of the league.
And he clearly believes that the trophy is within their gambit.
“Promotion was our first target but, having achieved that, we'd love to win the final. Wicklow haven't won much silverware over the years, so we'd be happy to take any cup that comes along,” smiles Murphy.
“The higher up you go, the better the teams you play and the better you become. We're delighted that we'll be in Division Three next year. Division Four wasn't easy to get out of, especially the way we did it.
“But the lads showed great courage after we lost two early games to Waterford and Fermanagh and put in a huge effort.”