Wednesday 21 February 2018

Mulrone the poster boy for Fermanagh's unlikely revival

Barry Mulrone has been a key figure in Fermanagh's revival
Barry Mulrone has been a key figure in Fermanagh's revival

Declan Bogue

You might ask what Fermanagh have been doing differently this year to still be playing football in late July, with a serious chance of meeting Kerry in August.

And you find the answer in the physical condition of a man like Barry Mulrone.

He's 27 now, but was a mere child of 16 when his county last won three games in the Championship and came within a kick of a ball of facing Kerry in an All-Ireland final.

Tempting to think of Mulrone and his contemporaries as the legacy of that run, but he probably would have made it anyway. Two years later he looked like a senior player against Antrim as they met in the Ulster minor championship.

In 2004, he had a special insight to the squad; his father Sylvester was a selector to manager Charlie Mulgrew and he would frequently attend training sessions.

"It was just a great time," he recalls in that upbeat way of his. "The memories it brought back of those games, the games against Donegal, Meath, Cork. It kind of puts it into perspective that hopefully we are now providing fresh memories.

"That is what we are trying to do. I know people will say that what your career amounts to is looking back at what you won, but there is another side to it as well and it is about the memories that you will have and that you leave for others."


Such as the Roscommon game almost a fortnight ago. On a sunny Sunday in Enniskillen, Fermanagh fans got caught up in the emotion of the type of comeback that they had often fell victim to. Five points down with six minutes remaining, they surged with a string of spectacular points that sent hearts racing and tear ducts swelling.

In the midst of the celebrations, Mulrone met his father. After Sylvester had been selector in '04, he was back in the same role for John O'Neill in 2011, the year a player revolt destroyed many reputations and hit people hard.

Barry was one of the men who stayed, playing on an ankle that was never right. The two Devenish St Mary's men have been hurt by football, but it has lifted them too.

"He was fairly excited when I saw him on the pitch," he smiles. "He didn't know if he should shake my hand, give me a hug or give me a kiss. He didn't know what to do with himself. My Mum is a bit of a bandwagon supporter, she won't like me saying, but the whole family is loving it."

And well they might. For the four seasons before this, Fermanagh won only one championship game, coincidentally against this weekend's opponents, Westmeath.

Get over them, and Fermanagh would be back in the last eight, just as they were in 2003 and 2004. And against Kerry, the 2004 All-Ireland final that wasn't to be.

The two Mulrones will be there, with roles reversed; one playing his part on the field, the other shouting from the stands. The circle of life.

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