FERMANAGH REVIEW – Five key points from the season

1: Ederney end long wait in style

DERRYGONNELLY were red-hot favourites to claim the six in-a-row, and justifiably so for they have been tremendous champions and ambassadors for Fermanagh football. However, their final opponents Ederney were in no mood to roll out the red carpet even after conceding a ninth-minute goal. Somehow, and this is a testament to the sheer resilience of Ederney’s performance, it turned out to be Derrygonnelly’s last score of the game from play. 39-year-old Martin McGrath was absolutely immense, turning in a Man of the Match performance as they secured their first Fermanagh Senior Championship title in 52 long years. Other stalwarts like the McCusker brothers, Paul and Declan, are just as deserving of their moment in the spotlight, and it’d be remiss not to mention their manager Michael Cassidy as well. They’d suffered a lot of hurt at the hands of Derrygonnelly in recent years which was another reason why victory tasted so sweet on a memorable day. Elsewhere on the Fermanagh men’s scene, Enniskillen Gaels won the Intermediate Championship in a high-scoring encounter with Maguiresbridge, while the Junior Championship final between Coa and Derrylin had to be postponed.

2: Ladies in dreamland

FERMANAGH ladies won the All-Ireland Junior Championship just a couple of weeks ago with victory over Wicklow. They’d lost last year’s decider to Louth, so they did fantastically well to go one better this season under returning manager Johnny Garrity. Their victory in the final was all the more noteworthy as their fantastic captain Courteney Murphy had to miss out with a broken wrist. It seems like they really have a good thing going at the moment; player turn-out in the ladies’ game can be a bit hit-and-miss but they’ve great numbers at training and got their just rewards with an All-Ireland title, even if it is a shame they didn’t get to play their decider at Croke Park. The match wasn’t held too far away –  it was played at Parnell Park –  and goals from Roisin McDonald and Eimear Smyth sent them on their way to a hard-fought 2-9 to 0-12 victory. This is their second Junior Championship triumph in four years so they’ll be hoping to build on it and there is no reason why they can’t join the other Ulster counties in making a mark higher up the levels. It’s an exciting time for the side.

3: New kids on the block show the way forward

IT wasn’t the best season for the Fermanagh senior intercounty men’s team as they were relegated from Division Two and dumped out of the championship by Down in the first round. However, hope springs eternal in the Fermanagh fan’s heart and there is reason to believe that better days lay ahead. While you could almost pick the Fermanagh team yourself in recent years – Donnelly, Jones, Quigley and co – there has been an influx of some younger faces this year which should really freshen things up. Hogan Cup winners Sean McNally (goalkeeper), Josh Largo-Elis and Luke Flanagan (both defenders) made their league debuts in the penultimate round against Clare and were also rewarded with starting berths in their final match against Laois and their championship encounter against Down. Young defender Johnny Cassidy won high praise from Ryan McMenamin as well before the championship. It wasn’t a straightforward season with an outbreak of Covid wrecking the tail-end of their league campaign, but at least they have reason for optimism, while most of their elder statesmen should be around for another few years yet.

4: The hurlers are pipped at the post

THE  Fermanagh hurlers reached the Lory Meaghar Cup final for the first time since 2015, but unfortunately they weren’t on the right side of the result on this occasion as they fell short against Louth at Croke Park. They could have no complaints as the Wee county were the better team on the day. They’ll still be disappointed that they lost by 11 points as they clinched a narrow victory over Louth in the round-robin stage, but they did well to come back strong after the summer lockdown given their league campaign had been pretty poor earlier in the year. A sad end to a decent year.

5: Covid-gate was a source of controversy

NOT exactly a happy memory, this one. The GAA refused to postpone Fermanagh’s Division Two league fixture away to Clare after an outbreak of Covid-19 in the camp, and manager Ryan McMenamin claimed that wouldn’t have been the case had it been one of the big hitters. He said they were in no shape to play the match, but to their credit they fulfilled the fixture and performed well in the circumstances, even though they lost by a few points in the end. They were relegated to Division Three as a result, and that’s where they will ply their trade in 2021, but to be honest the damage was done earlier in the season when they failed to get a result in four of their opening five league matches. The main thing is that all the affected players recovered, but there’s no doubt the overall impact was detrimental to their season and they must respond.


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