By Niall Gartland
FERMANAGH minors are aiming to go boldly where haven’t been since 2003 – the Ulster final.
The Erne county’s record at underage level has been pretty miserly down through the years, though they’re producing talented young players and that’s been evident in their more recent performances.
Aiden Gilroy’s team clinched a deserved victory over Cavan in the quarter-finals, though the stark reality is that nobody will give them much of a chance of overcoming Tyrone at Healy Park this Saturday night.
Gilroy always comes across as a fairly laid back customer, but his affable nature belies a focused and astute manager and he’s bullish about the perception that this will be a handy one for Tyrone.
“We’ll let you think that but we know what we’re capable of. We’ll analyse what we can work on ourselves, and we’ll watch Tyrone’s game. They’d a few lads missing over Covid so presumably they’ll be back. We’re going there as underdogs, but it’s a nice place to be. There’s no pressure on us, and if we can perform then you never know.”
Fermanagh clinched victory over Cavan by the bare minimum (1-12 to 1-11) but it’s hard to say it wasn’t deserved when you consider they trailed by 0-6 to 0-1 in the first half. Gilroy said he was able to settle his charges at the water-break.
“Something I’ve been crowing on about the whole time is belief. We actually had a decent start, we were one-nil up after six or seven minutes and then Cavan took over. Their dangerman hit the crossbar and I think that shook our boys and we rolled off a few points.
“We got to the water-break and said ‘settle down, you’ve seen from the way you started the game that you’re well capable.’ We got a couple of frees, a bit of momentum and started to play the way we know we can.”
One of the most deadly weapon’s in their armoury is the free-taking ability of Caoilte Farry, nephew of Fermanagh legend Martin McGrath. He nailed six frees on the day, while the likes of Diarmuid Owens and Cian O’Brien were also outstanding. Gilroy says O’Brien was particularly pivotal to their win.
“There’s five or six boys starting for us who are still eligible next year. Cian O’Brien got in for a point, we had him at centre half-forward as we did our homework on Cavan’s number six. He likes to run at times, he was able to put a stop to that and it went a long way towards winning the game.”
For what it’s worth, their victory over Cavan got an extremely positive reaction from the Fermanagh faithful, something Gilroy says they’re appreciative of.
“It’s a boost for everyone, particularly in times like these when a lot of people aren’t getting to the games. It’s good to get a positive result and hopefully the lads will come on leaps and bounds as a result. They hadn’t played a game like that in their lives so you just hope it’ll be a springboard for success.”