Ernesiders can take next step
O'Callaghan: Fermanagh out to enhance status by beating Dubs
Powerhouse midfield ace Richard O'Callaghan believes Fermanagh are on the cusp of a double bonus as they prepare to take on the might of Dublin in tomorrow's All-Ireland football quarter-final at Croke Park.
Peter McGrath's side not only have the incentive of reaching the last four of the race for the Sam Maguire Cup but the strong possibility of claiming enhanced status as a football force is proving an equally attractive spur for the players, according to O'Callaghan.
"This is a massive challenge for us against a side laden with household names and All-Stars but we have our own quota of talented players too," maintained O'Callaghan.
"I think the further we have moved on this year the more players have stepped up to the mark. When you see the pressure coming on, that is when you see certain players emerging strongly on different days and this has really helped to build the great spirit that is in this side. We want to make Fermanagh a respected name in football."
While O'Callaghan, Eoin Donnelly and Ryan Jones form a cohesive central area triumvirate, players such as James McMahon, Niall Cassidy and Michael Jones have cemented their reputations this term in defence while Tomas Corrigan, Sean Quigley and Declan McCusker are others who have excelled.
And O'Callaghan, whose aerial skills and physical strength will be vital assets tomorrow, particularly if he goes head-to-head with Dublin dynamo Michael Daragh Macauley, suggests that Fermanagh can display a new level of maturity.
"We are very fortunate in that there are leaders throughout this Fermanagh side," insisted O'Callaghan.
"Players are not afraid to stand up and take responsibility and that is a good thing, especially in the heat of Championship battles. You don't get a bigger test than Dublin at Croke Park but we won't be fazed by it."
Since they started their preparations for 2015 last October, Fermanagh have placed considerable emphasis on togetherness, the team ethic and solid bonding.
That manifested itself during their successful promotion drive to Division Two and has become even more pronounced since the onset of the Championship.
It's this unified spirit and one for all approach that O'Callaghan feels could sustain the team when Dublin seek to impose themselves.
"We have been getting more confident and this has come to the surface in our Championship matches," declared O'Callaghan. "But while we have self-belief, we have never shown complacency. We know we are still on a learning curve but we like to think that we have progressed and can now make further headway."
Like most of his colleagues, O'Callaghan admits to being mildly surprised and delighted that they will now be confronting Dublin, the team that are rated at 1/250 in some quarters for tomorrow.
"We are the underdogs but we will not be beaten mentally," insisted O'Callaghan. "We won't be taking any baggage into Croke Park. Fermanagh teams have been there before us and have not let themselves down and we have no intention of doing that either.
"Fermanagh don't get to play there too often. As players and indeed as a united county we will be going there hoping to win no matter what the odds against that are."
A defeat to Armagh and the slip-up against Monaghan in the Ulster Championship apart, Fermanagh have by and large maintained their winning habit - something that has fuelled optimism.
"We have a good defensive record and while Dublin will be a massive step up, they are just men like us," added O'Callaghan.
"We will look to close them down and frustrate them and if we can then we won't be far away."
FERMANAGH: T Tracey; M Jones, M O'Brien, N Cassidy; D McCusker, R McCluskey, J McMahon; E Donnelly, R O'Callaghan; B Mulrone, R Jones, R Corrigan; P McCusker, S Quigley, T Corrigan.