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Dreamland a game away for level-headed O'Rourke

By John Campbell

Ecstacy and agony were the contrasting emotions which engulfed the respective dressing-rooms after Saturday's riveting Ulster Championship semi.

Yet while euphoria understandably prevailed, Fermanagh manager Malachy O'Rourke retained a sense of perspective.

"We went into this game knowing it was going to be very hard. But we had a game-plan and we stuck to it. We expected Derry to be physically stronger but we were prepared to work very hard and this paid off for us.

"Obviously it's great to be going into an Ulster final against either Down or Armagh and that will be an even bigger challenge for us. We must be ready for it," said O'Rourke.

Fermanagh's mammoth work rate was perhaps best exemplified by man of the match, wing-back Tommy McElroy, whose indefatigable resolve served as a beacon for his colleagues.

"We were underdogs against Monaghan, we were underdogs here against Derry and we will be more than happy to go into the Ulster final as underdogs," smiled McElroy.

And the element of romance that adorned Fermanagh's victory made their entry into the decider even more satisfying, Barry Owens having been sprung from the bench to pirate a golden goal with his first touch after his playing career had been threatened by a heart problem.

"I was lucky enough to get the goal but, really, the boys all worked their socks off. They are unbelievably committed. I would be happy to keep goal or do water-boy for this side, that's what it means to me to be involved," declared Owens.

Derry manager Paddy Crozier admitted that his team had surrendered the initiative after they led by 1-3 to 0-1.

"We missed a penalty and then afterwards we failed to get the ball into the Bradley brothers regularly enough. You cannot win matches against this background. Obviously Fergal Doherty was a loss — you need your big players for games like this — and Fermanagh won a lot of breaking ball in the middle of the field. If you can't get the ball in the middle of the field you are going to be in trouble," said Crozier.

And he added: "We had been seven points up at one stage playing with the wind but at half-time we were only two points ahead.

"We let them back into the game and that's the long and the short of it. We were making the wrong decisions. To be honest, we weren't just second best on the day , we were third or fourth best. We will have to re-group for the All Ireland qualifiers and, as everyone knows, there are some very good teams in there."

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