Fermanagh star McCluskey to concentrate on GAA
Ryan McCluskey’s love-affair with soccer has helped to maintain his role as one of Ulster’s high-profile sportsmen.
But it’s in the green of Fermanagh rather than in the red of Portadown that the versatile McCluskey will step into a front-stage role on Saturday when he is expected to underpin the defence against Cavan in the quarter-final of the Ulster Senior Football championship.
One of a number of prominent Erne players who missed the team’s unflattering National League Division Three campaign that culminated in relegation, McCluskey is now poised to return to a side that is seeking redemption following a depressing winter.
He may be involved in two codes but the lion-hearted McCluskey never gives less than one hundred per cent effort irrespective of the jersey that might adorn his able back.
And if Fermanagh players, officials and fans have due cause to regret a league campaign that evoked only heartache then they can take championship solace from their stirring 2008 journey when they blazed into the Ulster final only to lose to Armagh following a replay.
Indeed, the Ernesiders appeared to have the orchard county on the rack at one stage in the drawn game but were unable to deliver the killer punch, allowing their opponents to get back on level terms before emerging triumphant in the second episode.
That particular chapter in Fermanagh’s recent championship history is etched in McCluskey’s mind — he wielded a major influence at the back — and he is now hoping that the spirit, resilience and pride which marked that campaign will be in evidence again on Saturday against a Cavan side that will be hoping to repeat their win of last year over Malachy O’Rourke’s men.
“Cavan have been hurting since they were beaten in the Ulster Championship last year by Antrim but we are just focused on our own concerns,” he said.
With Barry Owens still unavailable, Peter Sherry out of contention and Shane Goan struggling with an injury manager O’Rourke is confronted with defensive worries and has particularly good reason for welcoming McCluskey back into his fold.
“When you look back at the National League you will see that we had players who were injured, others who were unavailable because of different commitments and some who were unable to commit themselves to the side so that certainly did not make things easy for us.
“We could not field a settled team during the competition but we have had a bit of time since then to amend our squad,” points out O’Rourke.