McManus hopes Fermanagh can go one step further
By Michael Devlin
We all love a good GAA underdog story. Just look at Mullinalaghta.
There were some worthy entries in the 2018 inter-county football season as well. Take Turlough O’Brien’s Carlow, who captured the public’s imagination with their promotion out of the bottom division of National Football League for the first time since 1985.
A famous Leinster Championship quarter-final victory for the Barrowsiders over 2017 runners-up Kildare was one of the season’s most memorable moments.
Longford recorded their first championship win over Meath since 1982 with a two-point victory in a gripping encounter at Pearse Park, qualifying for their first Leinster semi-final in 30 years.
Then there’s Fermanagh, perennial underdogs in Ulster who have yet to win a provincial title. After toppling Armagh, the Erne County scored a sensational semi-final victory over hot favourites Monaghan at Healy Park, with skipper Eoin Donnelly punching home a dramatic winning goal in stoppage time.
Their hopes of a maiden Anglo-Celt Cup were ultimately dashed by an impressive Donegal in the final, but regardless, Fermanagh have still given their supporters plenty to cheer about in 2018.
Along with Carlow and Longford, they were a beacon of hope for smaller counties across the country, something which defender Cian McManus was thrilled to be a part of.
“That’s what we love about the GAA, big upsets,” said McManus at the launch of a collaborative Rights Awareness Resource between the GAA and the Ombudsman for Children's Office.
“It adds to it all, so it’s nice to be involved.
“Even within the county a lot of people were surprised, but we kind of knew ourselves what we’re capable of. Before the Armagh match we knew that if we played well we’d get over the line, and the same with the Monaghan match, it would be tight but we knew that we could come through, and thankfully we did.
“Unfortunately in the final we didn’t play to our potential and Donegal were very impressive. In the championship they were very unlucky to lose Paddy McBrearty, they could have went on to an All-Ireland final.
“It was a difficult year the year before, we didn’t go too well. Rory [Gallagher] came in and changed things up, he brought a very professional element to it. It showed us what could be achieved in a short space of time, and hopefully we’ll go again maybe one step further.
“The Ulster championship is just cut-throat, you have to play well every day. If you don’t play well one day you can just get completely blown out of the water.”
Division Two football awaits for Fermanagh this year following an impressive league campaign, winning five of the seven games, and only losing out to Armagh in the final.
“It was disappointing not to win the league title. Division Two is not going to be simple either,” says McManus. “There are a few big teams there; Cork, Tipperary, classy footballing counties, so we’ll be looking forward to playing them.”
The new inter-county season isn’t long rolling around, and Fermanagh get their season up in running at Derrygonnelly against Ulster University in the Dr McKenna Cup this Saturday. McManus, a student at DCU, already has some experience of the weekend’s opponents.
“We played them with the college there a couple of weeks ago, they’re impressive as always, they play nice football. They’ll be flying fit and this is our first game of the year, so it will be interesting to see how we get on. It’s nice to get an outing at this time of the year.
“You’re playing games, and everybody wants to play games, so I suppose it’s enjoyable going back when there’s a game to look forward to this Saturday. You’ve the Christmas break then there’s more games in the McKenna Cup, and hopefully we’ll see how we get on there.”