McCusker feels Fermanagh footballers are disrespected
By John Harrington
Fermanagh football team captain, Declan McCusker, made his championship debut back in 2011 against London in the All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers.
By his own admission that was “a dark day” for the Erne County as they fell to a London team that won their first Championship match since 1977.
Despite that difficult start he quickly blossomed into a really important player for Fermanagh, an ever-present in a defence that for most of his career has a well-earned reputation for giving nothing away easily.
There have been lows as well as highs, but by and large he feels like Fermanagh teams he has been a part of have always punched above their weight considering they’ve fewer clubs than any other county in the country.
Despite that loaves and fishes act, it does grate with him that as a team they don’t always get the credit they deserve.
“My view on Fermanagh might be different from people outside Fermanagh,” said McCusker.
“Teams probably look at us as a nice footballing team. Sometimes, I think we're disrespected a wee bit as well.
“Even when we have done well, it's forgotten about quickly. Us and Antrim sometimes are seen as the bottom two teams in Ulster. Whereas for a long time...in 2019, we were one game away from going up to Division 1. People seem to forget about that stuff quickly.
“At the minute, I'm a big believer that the leagues don't lie - you are where you are supposed to be. At the minute, we're a Division 3 team, and that's where we should be. It's up to us to try and change that.”
He hopes that the Tailteann Cup can help in that regard. Nothing accelerates the development of a team like winning silverware, and he sees the nascent competition as a huge opportunity for Fermanagh.
“Everybody is in the same boat. It's a big year for the competition, the first year, and it has to be run properly, and well promoted.
“Realistically, it is the right thing to do because none of the 16 teams here have a realistic chance of winning Sam Maguire. There are probably 10 teams in the Sam Maguire who don't have a realistic chance of winning it.
“Whereas every team here would feel they have a chance of winning this cup, and if things go right for them, any team could beat any other team - when you look at league results that's what has been happening.
“To bring that format into championship, it should make for exciting games. When you feel that you have a chance of winning silverware, it makes it exciting.”
“I do feel that we are good enough. Obviously, you need a lot to go right, and there are a lot of strong teams in it.
“In the past, we had a couple of good runs in the qualifiers, and they were really enjoyable at the time. I suppose in the back of your mind, you know you're never going to go all the way, and lift a trophy. But, you are always looking to develop the team, and get better.
“I suppose with this competition, you have a chance to develop your team, you have a chance to get better, and win a trophy.”
There has been a high turnover of players in the Fermanagh panel in the past couple of years with a new generation of players starting to break through.
McCusker hopes a win over Longford in the first round of the Tailteann Cup this weekend followed by further positive results would bring those young players on hugely.
“At the minute, we have a very young squad. It would be massive for confidence, and just improving for the future. The best way to improve is winning championship games. It's difficult with the Ulster format. You've got so many top teams, and it's hard to get a run of games.
“If you're going straight into the qualifiers, you could get a Mayo or Monaghan, or another Division 1 team. It can be very hard.
“A competition like this, although every game is tough, it does give you a chance that if you can win your first game, and then get a run of games, it's the best way to improve players, and improve as a team.”
Saturday, May 28
Tailteann Cup Round 1
Longford v Fermanagh, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, 5.30pm