By Mark McGoldrick
BEFORE a ball was kicked in the Junior Football Championship, Lisnaskea Emmett’s was tipped by many as the outright favourites to lift the title.
This Sunday (Donagh 4pm), Lisnaskea will again be carrying the favourites tag against Aghadrumsee and Emmett’s manager John Reihill is adamant that his youthful side won’t be fazed by the pressure.
“We’ve just been taking it step by step and one game at a time. We have never seen ourselves as favourites,” said the Enniskillen man.
“Having played the teams in the league, we knew that it was going to be a very tough championship and that has proved to be the case and every championship game has been hard fought.”
Despite Reihill playing down Lisnaskea’s championship campaign, the Emmett’s have been the dominant force, brushing Brookeborough aside with ease in the first round.
Coincidently, their toughest game in the championship was against this Sunday’s opponents, Aghadrumsee. In the semi-final, Lisnaskea just beat the Magpies by one point on a scoreline of 1-11 to 2-07.
Reflecting on that game, Reihill feels his side learned a lot against Mickey Cadden’s Aghadrumsee.
“We knew that they have some very talented footballers and it was a hard fought game,” said the Holy Trinity Primary School vice principal.
“We were pleased with our first half performance, but we were disappointed with our performance in the second half. The conditions didn’t help and we got two black cards in that game.
“That game was a precursor to this game and we know that on Sunday, it’s going to be another battle,” added Reihill.
Reihill, a former Fermanagh player and coach, has been paying close attention to Aghadrumsee’s results and he’s been very impressed by some of their performances.
“They’re (Aghadrumsee) strong and steady around the middle and their main strength is in attack,” said the Lisnaskea manager, who is in his second year in charge.
“Eddie Courtney, Enda McCabe and Dale Crudden could all be in their full-forward line and they do like to give the ball in and they’re all dangerous.
“Their main strength is in their attack and it’s the most dangerous side of the game,” explained Reihill.
Since their All-Ireland Intermediate Championship win in 2011, Lisnaskea have endured a barren run. There’s been a big change over in personnel, acknowledged Reihill.
“The fact that we’re in the Junior Football Championship and Lisnaskea hasn’t had much success, we wouldn’t have a huge squad of men,” said the Emmett’s boss.
“Our age profile is very young as the majority of our players are under 25 and we lack that wee bit of experience, but we’ve come on physically in the last year or two and we’ve gained that experience.
“We’re happy with how things have gone in the last six or eight weeks,” he added.
The McDade brothers, Joe and Justy, have been powerhouses around the middle third for Lisnaskea this season and Hayden Lynch has been very accurate in front of goal for Reihill’s side.
Despite their youthful squad, there’s still plenty of experience in the squad in Mark Smith, Liam Mullarkey and Mark Little and the Emmett’s boss feels that his side are ready to make a push for glory.
“It hasn’t been a good time over the past few years and I think the club is looking forward to it (the Junior Football Championship final),” said Reihill.
“It was very disappointing to go down ( to junior) last year and a club like Lisnaskea shouldn’t be competing in the Junior Championship in Fermanagh.
“It is what it is though and from a player point of view, I think they’re looking forward to it and hopefully we will have some success.”