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Ernemen making a splash at very top

By John Campbell

Published 24/07/2015

On the up: Ryan McCluskey is aiming to help Fermanagh through to All-Ireland quarter-finals
On the up: Ryan McCluskey is aiming to help Fermanagh through to All-Ireland quarter-finals

When Peter McGrath embarked on a new chapter in his distinguished managerial career with Fermanagh last year, he had due cause to regret the fact that he was left with insufficient time in which to prepare properly for the rigours of a demanding season.

The former Down All-Ireland winning manager has certainly made up for lost time with the enthusiastic, dedicated manner in which he immersed himself in restoring the Erne side's fortunes this term.

The upshot of his endeavours is that Fermanagh will go into tomorrow's All-Ireland Round 4A qualifier against Westmeath at Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan (5.00pm) fortified by a triple boost.

Galvanised by their promotion to Division Two, fired up by the fact that their reward for winning will be an All-Ireland quarter-final tie with either Dublin or Kerry and further motivated by the possibility that Sean Quigley could yet emerge as top scorer in the Championship, Fermanagh aim to climb a new peak.

Ryan McCluskey was a key cog in defence when Fermanagh reached the All-Ireland semi-finals in 2004 only to fall to Mayo and was still spearheading the team's defiance when Armagh proved their masters in an Ulster final replay four years later.

Still an inspirational figure in the side, McCluskey says: "Look at the way Westmeath came back against Meath in the Leinster semi-final. That is warning enough for us. They may have gone on the defensive against Dublin in the final but it was only after the Dubs got a couple of goals that they managed to control the game."

Qualifier wins over Antrim and Roscommon have helped to further cement what was an already vibrant spirit.

Quigley, who scored 14 points in the win over Antrim and top-scored in his team's passage into Division Two, admits that he was overcome when his side crossed the finishing line ahead against Roscommon.

"I couldn't believe it," admits Quigley. "When I got the ball in that last attack, I just knew what I was going to do with it and nothing would stop me. It was a great feeling when my shot went over the bar but it was an even better feeling when I saw hundreds of Fermanagh supporters pouring onto the field at the end.

"I saw grown men shedding tears on that occasion and it proved to me just how much a Fermanagh win meant to them."

Quigley is currently leading the Championship scoring charts having potted 2-17.

With Ruairí Corrigan fit again, his brother Tomás in fine form and Paul McCluskey looking sharp, Fermanagh certainly carry useful fire-power up front.

The Ernesiders are focused on proving that their credentials to join the elite are currently beyond reproach.

Belfast Telegraph

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