McCusker vows Ernemen will be sharpened for Clones test
A fear of losing games in sickening fashion is driving this Fermanagh team at the moment when they look ahead to the Championship opener against Monaghan this Saturday, insists hard working wing forward, Paul McCusker.
Throughout the spring, the Ernemen began the league campaign with loads of promise having seen off Down by 16 points in Newry. However, they lost captain and inspirational midfielder Eoin Donnelly to a black card in the first half of the next game against Galway and their season went into a tailspin thereafter, beating just Clare in the remaining games.
The final game was the final insult as they let Derry in for a goal in the opening seconds and while they built up a five point lead in the second half, could not keep out another three-pointer which ultimately relegated them in the end.
McCusker admits to questioning his involvement in the game when things like that happen.
"When you lose those big games, or when you get relegated, you are thinking about the time and effort and everything that you put into it, asking 'what am I getting out of this?'," he begins.
"You still want to get back to the training pitch with all the boys. There is good camaraderie there. It's weird how quickly you can get over things. As soon as you start training again, your focus is on, 'okay, the league is finished, let's look at the Championship'. So you start looking at that."
Last year Fermanagh blew a chance to go in at half-time a point up against Donegal with Sean Quigley's spurned penalty in the Ulster quarter-final. That defeat came prior to their famous defeat against Mayo in Castlebar, when Aidan O'Shea went to ground rather easily and prompted a fuming response on live television from manager Pete McGrath when he was shown the footage.
He states: "Both games cross your mind every so often. 'Jayz, we could have won those games, we should have won those games'.
"They are the sort of games that do come into your head more so than the Derry game, for example. They are big Championship days and we were nearly there.
"It's in your head that you want to get over the line in one of those big games, so that's what we are pushing for."
Throughout the league, Fermanagh did not score a goal since Eoin McManus' major against Down. It's an area McCusker insists they are paying particular attention to.
"We have been working a hell of a lot on it. A lot of our drills at training, everything is finishing with a shot," he reveals.
"We have talked about it a lot, about getting men on the ball in the right positions and the right men shooting from the right places, things like that."
He adds: "Even just… After that Derry game, you are dejected and thinking negatively about bloody Division Three football next year.
"But it is amazing how quickly you can put it behind you. You play a club game, the next thing you are back at training and the whole talk is of Monaghan and you have 'x' number of weeks to get things right."