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McCluskey's future not set in stone

By Declan Bogue

Here's something you might not have known.

After Dick Clerkin, the longest serving inter-county footballer is none other than Fermanagh's Ryan McCluskey, who will turn 34 this Championship campaign.

The gentle career wind-down of Steven Gerrard is not for him, however, as he jokes: "I don't have the luxury of jetting off to LA and getting a cushy deal, McAnespies (the club in Boston who he played for in 2011) in America may be more like my retirement package."

And yet there is a chance that this could be his final Championship game in Brewster Park, the ground that he grew up in having been reared in Cornagrade, the estate that overlooks the pitch.

He agrees that there is a sense of things turning full circle when he reveals: "Parenthood has mellowed me and I have enjoyed every game this year and I am hoping that it may continue but you never know.

"You only have to remember Brian Óg (Maguire) who was sadly taken from us when we were supposed to be all training the following day, and when you remember things like that you are just grateful for every day. I just love football and you get on with it and see how it goes."

After making his debut in 2001, McCluskey played in an All-Ireland quarter-final in 2003, and two semi-finals the following year, as well as making an awesome contribution to the two 2008 Ulster finals.

He might have been forgiven for thinking that major success would eventually arrive, but he has a theory on that.

"Maybe we took things for granted for a few years and rested on our laurels. Pete (McGrath) and the backroom team have settled now and that has shown too. That has definitely rubbed off on the team.

"I am often asked about the game in 2004 when we beat Armagh in the quarter-final, but I remember little. I remember a lot more about the semi-final defeat to Mayo. Unfortunately, you remember more about defeats."

Tomorrow, they are expected to stave off defeat when they face Antrim. Despite losing the Division Three final to Armagh, the Enniskillen Gaels man still believes they have the confidence boost from winning promotion.

"We are happy with our league campaign," he maintains.

"The final took a little bit of the gloss off but we still feel that we have momentum behind us."

Fermanagh (v Antrim); C Snow; M Jone, N Cassidy, M O'Brien; D McCusker, R McCluskey, J McMahon; R Jones (C), R O'Callaghan; B Mulrone, C Flaherty, P McCusker; T Corrigan, S Quigley, R Corrigan.

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