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O'Rourke looks to middle man Mac

When Fermanagh illuminated the 2004 All Ireland football championship season by reaching the semi-finals before being ushered out by Mayo following a replay, Shane McDermott proved their inspirational skipper.

Then serving as a dependable centre-half-back in the side, the stocky McDermott proved the axis around which much of Fermanagh's momentum generated.

Tomorrow, he will be a key figure for his county once again - only this time in a rather different role.

When the Ernesiders square up to Wexford in the National Football League Division Three Final at Parnell Park (12.30pm), McDermott will join Martin McGrath in forming the midfield sector within a side that has undergone change of late.

Indeed, McDermott's versatility is proving something of a bonus for manager Malachy O'Rourke who was able to make seven changes for last week's game against Down which his side won.

A raft of familiar Fermanagh names will be missing tomorrow for a variety of reasons - Chris Breen, Niall Bogue, Shane Goan, Barry Owens, Raymond Johnston, Mark Murphy, Mark Little and Matthew Keenan are just some of the players who won't be in the frame.

Tom Brewster may be used as a substitute as he was against Down last week-end and Matthew Keenan may also be sprung from the bench depending on what course the game takes.

Yet the Ernesiders continue to progress and there is even now a keen sense of anticipation in relation to their forthcoming Ulster Championship clash with Monaghan who have failed to reach Division One after the wheels came off their campaign.

But for the moment, getting the better of gritty Wexford tomorrow is the priority.

Manager O'Rourke knows that players such as Shane McDermott can underpin his side's challenge for the Divisional title.

"Shane is very experienced, he has great qualities of leadership and he is totally committed to the cause. That's what you need when you are going for trophies," states O'Rourke.

With Martin McGrath back to something like his best form after illness and injury last year, Fermanagh have acquired a more steely look.

Yet they still possess flair and style up front with players like Jonathan McGurn, Ryan Keenan, Eamon Maguire and Ciaran McElroy getting the chance to convince manager O'Rourke that they can not only help to deliver the Division Three booty but can assume major roles in the championship.

One step at a time is the Erne motto, though.

And county PRO Deirdre Donnelly has urged fans to get behind the side tomorrow.

"It's not often that we are in a final so it would be great if our followers would travel in big numbers. They have been very faithful over the course of the league and that has been a factor in the team's progress. It would be brilliant if we could finish on a high before turning out attention to the championship," says Deirdre.

Belfast Telegraph


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