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‘He’s absolutely ruthless, and relentless. I’m sure you’ve seen him on the sideline’ – McCusker’s praise for Rory Gallagher


Derry boss Rory Gallagher

Derry boss Rory Gallagher

Derry boss Rory Gallagher

Fermanagh captain Declan McCusker isn’t surprised at what his ‘brilliant’ former manager Rory Gallagher has done with Derry after he steered the Oak Leaf to a first Ulster final since 2011.

Gallagher was in charge of Fermanagh for 2018 and 2019 and brought them to an Ulster final in his first season while they were just a win away from division one in ‘19.

And with Derry taking on Donegal in the Ulster final this weekend, McCusker insists he expected the Oak Leaf to rise once Gallagher was appointed.

“I’m not surprised at all,” McCusker said. “He's a brilliant manager, a brilliant coach. As soon as he took over Derry, I thought he'd do well with them because they've always had talented players in Derry. It just needed someone to bring it all together, and he's managed to do that. He's got the best players on the pitch, which for all the counties outside the top few... We were chatting to some of the other players and the main thing is getting all the players in your county out. The reality is that in most counties, there are always a few that are away or a few that aren't there that you'd love to have in the team.

“He seems to have gotten all the best players in Derry out, and it's working out well for him.

“He's absolutely ruthless, and relentless. I'm sure you've seen him on the sideline. Then he goes into phenomenal detail when he's going into video work, and on your own shape, and how you should be playing. His detail on the opposition team is fantastic as well. You'd be really well prepared for games.”

McCusker and Fermanagh are busy preparing for their Tailteann Cup opener away to Longford on Saturday. And having been with the Erne men since 2011, he accepts that a competition like this was necessary.

“Realistically, it is the right thing to do because none of the 16 teams here have a realistic chance of winning Sam Maguire. There are probably 10 teams in the Sam Maguire who don't have a realistic chance of winning it.

“Whereas every team here would feel they have a chance of winning this cup, and if things go right for them, any team could beat any other team - when you look at league results that's what has been happening.

“To bring that format into championship, it should make for exciting games. When you feel that you have a chance of winning silverware, it makes it exciting.”

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Only Gary McKenna, who is heading to Australia for a year, has left the squad since the defeat to Tyrone in Ulster and McCusker reckons the competition has focused minds.

“Initially, I was worried that there being a 'B' competition that players might leave, but in fairness the boys' attitude has been brilliant. Everybody is saying, 'Maybe this is something that we need, and if we can get a run of championship games under our belt together, we'll only get stronger'. It probably has worked out as a positive.”

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