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Young stars can spark Ernemen's quest to reach the U20 decider

 

Key role: Ultan Kelm can call the shots for Fermanagh
Key role: Ultan Kelm can call the shots for Fermanagh
John Campbell

By John Campbell

When Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher initially blooded players such as Ultan Kelm and Jonny Cassidy at senior level, it was felt he was going out on a limb.

But the form of this duo, and that of several fringe players, has helped to spark a fresh wave of optimism within the county.

And that optimism will be particularly prevalent tomorrow night when the Erne County meet title-holders Derry in the first of the EirGrid Ulster Under-20 Football Championship semi-finals at Healy Park, Omagh (8pm).

Fermanagh certainly made people sit up and take notice when they overcame a fancied Donegal side at the quarter-final stage, while Derry were pushed to the limit by a resolute Armagh side in their last eight outing.

Tomorrow night's match is viewed as a major test of Fermanagh's skill and character, especially as the Derry side is imbued with a ration of experience.

Ben McCarron, Paul Cassidy, Lorcan McWilliams and Padraig McGrogan are expected to be to the fore, with manager Mickey Donnelly urging his side to get into their stride from the start.

"In our match against Armagh, we were forced to dig very deep in the second half after we had conceded scores, and we don't want to make life as hard for ourselves again this time out," says Donnelly.

Fermanagh may never have won an Ulster senior title, but the capture of the Under-20 Championship honour would certainly be seen as a welcome aperitif in this connection.

As well as Kelm and Cassidy, Fermanagh can also look to Josh Largo Ellis, Eoin Beacom, Brandan Horan, Dara McBrien, Darragh McGurn and skipper Cameron McBrien for inspiration.

Several of the St Michael's College, Enniskillen team that won the Hogan Cup are in the line-up.

It was in the closing stages of a nail-biting battle against Donegal that the Ernesiders held their nerve to come out on top, and the indications are that tomorrow night's game could also go right down to the wire.

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