McElroy hungry to produce final flourish for Fermanagh
It is a measure of the changing face of the Fermanagh football team that left-half-back Tommy McElroy now considers himself a senior citizen within the outfit even though he is still only 25-years-old.
Six years in the squad have given McElroy a level of experience that he shares with a number of other players and it will be this asset in particular that manager Malachy O’Rourke will lean on for victory against Monaghan in Sunday’s Ulster Senior Football Championship semi-final.
When Fermanagh overcame Cavan in their quarter-final on Saturday week last, O’Rourke blooded four debutants, thus reducing the average age of the side but exposing himself to the possibility of being undermined by his gamble.
In the event, Barry Mulrone, Daniel Ward, Paul Ward and Chris O’Brien not only fully justified their selection but have now considerably sharpened up competition for starting places against a Monaghan side that enter the semi-final as firm favourites following the 12-point drubbing they handed out to fancied Armagh.
It can be safely assumed that this fledgling quartet will again find themselves pencilled in by O’Rourke for a game which offers the Ernesiders the opportunity to reach the Ulster decider for the second time in three years.
And while the influx of fresh faces enhanced Fermanagh’s strategy against an admittedly limited Cavan side, the more mature foot soldiers such as McElroy, Martin McGrath, Ryan McCluskey, Niall Bogue and Ronan Gallagher provided the necessary ration of craft and resilience that took their side to a three-point goal, Ryan Carson’s late goal proving pivotal to this outcome.
But McElroy and his seasoned blood brothers are conscious that Monaghan will now pose a threat of an altogether different nature.
“They are coming into this match on the back of that win over Armagh and we know that their confidence will be high,” observes McElroy.
“They have quality in their side in the shape of players like Paul Finlay, Dick Clerkin, Tommy Freeman, Vincent Corey and others and they will be mad keen to get a crack at Tyrone in the Ulster final.”
Meanwhile, Stephen O'Neill is in no danger of missing the Ulster final, Tyrone assistant boss Tony Donnelly has said. The former Footballer of the Year had to go off after just 11 minutes of Sunday's semi-final against Down after suffering a foot injury.
But the damage is no worse than bruising to his heel, sustained after he came down heavily on the firm Casement Park surface.
“He should be okay towards the end of the week,” said Donnelly.
“He's hoping to play for his club at the weekend. He couldn't put any weight on it afterwards and obviously had to come off. But it's good news that it isn't anything worse than that.”