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All Ireland Qualifiers: Fermanagh want back on the biggest stage

By Micheal McGeary

Big Ronan Gallagher is convinced Fermanagh can bounce back and defy the critics.

The Ernemen have been written off after losing to Monaghan in the Ulster Championship semi-final.

But the Fermanagh keeper is adamant they can extend their Championship season into August and possibly even secure another trip to Croke Park.

“The loss to Monaghan certainly put a dampener on the first few nights back at training,” he said.

“But this squad of players has been around long enough to know the qualifiers can be good to us and there’s no valid reason why this season should be any different.

“Basically it’s just a case of resetting targets and going out there and playing to our full potential which wasn’t the case against Monaghan.

“The one big thing about Championship football is that you have to set out to make things happening and that means there can be no standing back.

“You have to be emptying the tank every day you go out and it’s vital that we absorb the lessons from the Monaghan defeat and put them into practice.”

Gallagher, a Fermanagh man through and through but now living in Armagh city and teaching in Middletown, has instant recall of previous Armagh and Fermanagh meetings over the last decade.

For Fermanagh supporters, victory over Armagh in the All Ireland quarter-final in 2004 was a day that will live long in the memory.

But for Ronan Gallagher it was an afternoon he would prefer to forget.

Manager Charlie Mulgrew saw fit to drop Ronan and he was confined to the bench as the Erne county defied the odds to make it through to the All Ireland semi-final.

Gallagher’s biggest regret was that he didn’t withdraw from the panel and concentrate totally on club football.

Now though his entire focus is on helping the Erne county make it through to the next round of the All Ireland qualifiers.

“The one thing about this Fermanagh squad is that it isn’t lacking in belief,” he said. “In players like Jamie Clarke we have a real attacking threat. We’re on our home patch and we generally play well there. There’s a certain rivalry between ourselves and Armagh that possibly comes from having played each other so often.

“It’s a cliche I know but it really is do or die at this stage of the season. Paddy O’Rourke has made a big impression in his first season with Armagh, but Malachy O’Rourke is expecting nothing less than a top class performance from us.

“It’s the least he deserves after the effort he and his management team have put in.

“They have been second to none in terms of effort and commitment to the job. The hope is that we can repay the faith they have shown in us over the last three seasons. Players have to wise up and take responsibility. It’s far too easy to blame the manager.”

Meanwhile, Armagh’s team shows one change from the side that beat Donegal.

Pearse Og’s Anton Duffy, who dislocated his shoulder against Crossmaglen, makes way for Madden’s Joe Feeney to come into the side at right half forward.

ARMAGH: P Hearty, A Mallon, B Donaghy, V Martin, P Duffy, C McKeever, K Dyas, C Vernon, M Mackin, J Feeney, A Kernan, F Hanratty, G Swift, S McDonnell, J Clarke.

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