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We're thrilled McMenamin is new boss of Fermanagh: McCusker

In charge: Ryan McMenamin has taken over the reins of the Erne County
In charge: Ryan McMenamin has taken over the reins of the Erne County
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Fermanagh's players have given the seal of approval to their new manager, multiple All-Ireland-winning former Tyrone ace Ryan 'Ricey' McMenamin.

The Dromore man was appointed as Rory Gallagher's successor - he was a coach under the old regime - at a county board meeting last night.

He brings his old Tyrone team-mate Joe McMahon with him as another coach, and his former manager from his club playing days, Paul McIver.

At present, McMahon is coaching the Clogher club in Tyrone Intermediate football, while McIver had left Killyclogher at the start of the year following a number of successful seasons at Down's highly-decorated Kilcoo.

It is understood that members of the county executive had reached out to a number of senior county players over the last several weeks and their feedback was that they would like to retain the services of McMenamin, who goes into his first management job of a senior team.

He has some experience of coaching with a senior squad before, having led St Macartan's ladies to an Ulster Club title in 2017, and he was part of Gallagher's backroom team for the last two years as the Erne County won promotion from Division Three of the Allianz League in 2018 and reached an Ulster final, and retained their Division Two status last year.

Defensive stalwart Declan McCusker welcomed the news. He said: "He has very good man-management skills. All of the boys would get on very well with him and if he felt somebody was struggling or felt somebody was needing to chat, he would be there or give them a shout, pull them out and have a wee word with them.

"I think everyone gets on well with him because of his man-management. Boys said we wanted Ricey involved one way or another for the continuity.

"We have had him for the last couple of years and to just throw it away for an entirely new management team, it makes it difficult to push on when you are starting something new again."

There were fears that arguably their most recognisable player, Che Cullen, would not make himself available for 2020.

The 2018 All-Star nominee works for First Derivatives in Bulgaria and it was doubtful whether he could continue to travel home at weekends to represent his county.

However, it is understood that with the appointment of McMenamin he is happy to make the regular journeys.

"Che gets on very well with Ricey," said McCusker.

"I think he was thinking anyway that whoever was going to come in, he was prepared to try and do the training on his own.

"He is some kind of a freak athlete. He seems to come home flying. I know Ricey has no issue with it and you wouldn't like to be going into the year without him."

However, Fermanagh do have some concerns ahead of their 2020 campaign. Experienced defender Barry Mulrone, who has been playing for over a decade, is believed to be retiring, while Che Cullen's twin brother Lee is said to be travelling, as is attacker Ryan Lyons.

Eamonn McHugh, who appeared in the 2018 Ulster final, is also believed to be retiring after fighting against persistent injuries.

The future of Paul McCusker - Declan's brother - is also in doubt.

He gets married on New Year's Eve and will be on honeymoon for much of January, but could be persuaded to extend his county career if his other commitments can be arranged.

Fermanagh head back into Division Two in 2020 in a very tight league, Ulster finalists Cavan and Connacht champions Roscommon having come down from the top flight.

After some positive early results last year, Fermanagh had a realistic chance of making it into the top flight but late defeats to Armagh and Meath killed off that dream.

"I think Division Two is a minefield," said McCusker.

"We were close to promotion last year. I think we will be starting out next year trying to stay in the division again.

"Even if you kept the whole management team for next year, you would still be saying that because of the nature of Division Two - you think you might get promoted and the next thing you could be heading down.

"So we need to try to get a few wins to stay up and then see where you are. Last year we were in a position to get up, but it didn't happen for us."

On paper, Fermanagh had two Championship games and lost twice - against Donegal and Monaghan - but that doesn't paint the whole picture, says McCusker.

"Well, Donegal at one point in the Championship were being talked about as the only team that could realistically challenge Dublin," he said.

"And then they were beaten by Monaghan, a Division One team. There are plenty of teams who won three or four games but who would they have played?

"I suppose we got no luck in the draw. If we had have met some of the weaker teams it might have been nice to build up a bit of a run because there were a few things we were working on."

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