Tuesday 20 February 2018

McGrath backing youth to get Fermanagh on track

Ryan Jones is as a potential match-winner for Fermanagh, according to former midfield warrior Marty McGrath. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Ryan Jones is as a potential match-winner for Fermanagh, according to former midfield warrior Marty McGrath. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

It has the feel of a 'Wooden Spoon' match in the most competitive football province, but Fermanagh's retired midfield warrior Marty McGrath says the value of an Ulster championship win can't be overestimated for them.

Fermanagh haven't won an Ulster SFC match since 2010 when they beat Cavan, while Antrim haven't taken a scalp in the province since beating Cavan to reach the 2009 Ulster final.

"Considering the history, people would say Fermanagh and Antrim are the two lowest ranked teams in Ulster anyway," said McGrath.

"And that has nothing to do with current players. It's probably the perception, but it can be a wrong perception.

"If you go by league form maybe so, but Fermanagh will not mind that, they'll be sitting quietly. There will be little spotlight on this and it could be the most open game in the Ulster championship."

With a young team, McGrath feels it's an opportunity Fermanagh can't afford to spurn.

"There are a lot of young fellas on that team, with a couple of experienced lads like Ryan McCluskey and Barry Owens in the mix, who are still there from 2004.

"It would be great to come away with a win just to get the everything back on the track after four years," he said.

McGrath has identified Ryan Jones and Eoin Donnelly as potential match winners for Pete McGrath's side.

"There are players with us as good as any in the country on their day. You look at Ryan Jones. Get the ball to him and get him going forward and it's a big advantage to Fermanagh.

"Eoin Donnelly was probably close to the best individual performance in the championship last year against Cavan. For a couple of years in county football he has shown that he is a quality player.

"Everybody can play well when the team around you is playing well, but he did it in that game when we were in trouble. I'd like to see him hit that height again."

It's 10 years since Fermanagh stormed through the qualifiers and forced Mayo to an All-Ireland semi-final replay and McGrath, an All Star that year, hopes there can be a sense of renewal as the milestone passes.

He admits there is still a tinge of regret that that they didn't reach an All-Ireland final when the opportunity presented itself.

"We left it behind us. You will always say what could have been. You have to appreciate getting that opportunity. But Fermanagh still have no titles to show no matter what."

Irish Independent

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