By Mark McGoldrick
LISNASKEA goalkeeper Ethan McCaffrey knows that his side is going to be up against it when they take on the fancied Arva in Saturday’s Ulster Junior Football Championship semi-final, but it’s a challenge that the Emmett’s shot-stopper and his teammates are relishing.
“A lot of people might see us as underdogs and that might be good for us as teams mightn’t show us the respect that they would show to teams from other counties,” said the 20-year-old goalkeeper.
“We’re just looking to put in a good performance and if we put in a good performance and every lad puts his shoulder to the wheel, you’ll never know what will happen.”
The South West College student has been in exceptional form for ‘Skea this season, with a ‘Man of the Match’ performance in the Fermanagh decider against Aghadrumsee, where he converted five ‘45s and earned himself a Fermanagh All-Star nomination.
McCaffrey’s pleased with his performance between the sticks this season and he reserves special praise for former Lisnaskea and Fermanagh goalkeeper Cormac McAdam who has been a major figure in his career.
“Every training session I go out is just about working on my kick-outs and frees and stuff you’re doing in a game from dead balls,” he said.
“I’ve put a lot of work into it and if you’d have asked me that two years ago, it wouldn’t have been as good as I am now.
“Since I’ve gone to senior level, Cormac (McAdam) has been brilliant. I’ve got a lot of tips from Cormac, especially on kick-outs. If I can even do half the stuff that Cormac has done, I’ll have a very good career,” added the plumbing apprentice.
Last year, in his first season at senior level, McCaffrey suffered relegation to the Fermanagh Junior Championship.
The Emmett’s net-minder feels his teammates learned a lot from that and pays a special tribute to the ‘Skea management team.
“At the start of the year, we set our eyes on getting out of the (Fermanagh) Junior Championship, and then once we got that, we thought we could kick on in Ulster. We all believe that we’re good enough,” he summed up.
“John (Reihill), Decky (McBrien) and Pearce (Collins), the amount of work that they put in to keep us right behind the scenes is superb and Johnny’s (Feely) training has been fantastic. They’ve really got the forwards going very well and we’re just keeping building.
“Every session is getting better and better and everyone is pushing for places that are up for grabs,” added McCaffrey.
The Emmett’s have a small squad, but McCaffrey feels that there’s a good mix of youth and experience in the Lisnaskea squad.
“Some of the young players, they’re great leaders. Joe (McDade) is young, but he’s a great leader,” said the ‘Skea keeper.
“Then you’ve got older players like ‘Boiler’ (Mark Little). Learning off ‘Boiler’ is brilliant. He reads the game very well and he’ll be a big asset for us come Saturday.”
Lisnaskea will need all the experience that they can get on Saturday when they take on Cavan heavyweights Arva in Clones.
McCaffrey understands that the ‘Skea side will be the underdogs for the game, but he feels his players are well able to take the next step.
“We’re expecting a lot of physicality and pace (from Arva),” he said.
“We know that we’re every bit as good as this team and we have every chance of going through.
“It’s an Ulster semi-final so we should be going out and fearing absolutely nobody in this competition.”