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O’Rourke Ferm in his quest for glory

By Micheal McGeary

An Ulster Championship derby match against Cavan comes as a welcome diversion for Fermanagh boss Malachy O’Rourke.

The Derrylin teacher enjoyed Sigerson success with St. Mary’s College in his student days and more recently at club level with both Loup, who won an Ulster club title, and Cavan Gaels.

But Fermanagh’s Division Three league campaign was a nightmare as they struggled to stay afloat with a squad that was decimated by both injuries and suspension.

They fought a brave fight but in the end there was no avoiding the dreaded relegation.

Now O’Rourke has the task of lifting and motivating his squad as he heads to Breffni Park.

It doesn’t help that the Breffni men under manager Tommy Carr are showing some semblance of improvement.

Reflecting on a bitterly disappointing league campaign O’Rourke makes no attempt to hide his bitter disappointment.

“We started out at the start of the year determined to make up for last season and get the show back on the road,” he said.

“In fairness the players couldn’t be faulted in terms of effort and commitment, but the reality is that things just didn’t work out.

“There’s no point hiding the fact that it was a hugely disappointing league.

“But on a more positive note, we’ve had a decent break since the league ended and that has allowed us time to refocus and reenergise the whole set up.”

Fermanagh’s current plight is in stark contraast to two seasons ago when they reached the Ulster final before losing to Armagh after a replay.

A first Ulster title then and we would now be looking at a totally different landscape.

Getting over the heartbreak and desolation of missing out on Anglo Celt glory was always going to take time.

The situation was then exacerbated in the 2010 Allianz League when manager O’Rourke had to plan without a number of key players including two former All Stars Barry Owens and Martin McGrath.

Typically the manager refused to offer any excuses and instead worked even harder without ever enjoying the rub of the green.

In a sense the championship couldn’t have come at a better time. Players absent for a variety of reasons have returned, offering the hope of better times ahead and yet their opponents will have similar aspirations.

“Providing we play to our full potential we won’t be far away,” added O’Rourke.

“But you never know until the game starts how your players will perform.

“Twelve months ago we felt we had prepared well enough for the Cavan match but they were the better side and deserved to win.”

O’Rourke is convinced that Cavan will be even more difficult to overcome this time and points to the return of Seanie Johnston as being a significant boost for Tommy Carr’s men.

“In the league we had to keep chopping and changing and when you are losing games, you keep trying to get the balance right and hopefully we now have it the way we want it,” he said.

Last night it was confirmed that Fermanagh will give debuts to Barry Mulrone, Daniel Ward and Chris O’Brien.

FERMANAGH: R Gallagher, N Bogue, S Lyons, B Mulrone, D Ward, R McCluskey, T McElroy, J Sherry, M McGrath (capt), D Keenan, R Carson, M Little, P Ward, R Gallagher, C O’Brien.

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