A little over twelve months ago, Fermanagh entered battle with Monaghan in very different circumstances. The Farney men had just overcome favourites Tyrone while Fermanagh likewise sprung a surprise in defeating Armagh. Fermanagh of course won their semi final meeting with a late sucker punch goal from midfielder Eoin Donnelly. 371 days later and the pair will go head to head again, with the loser this time crashing out of competitive football for 2019.
Former Fermanagh goalkeeper Ronan Gallagher knows what his native county faces come Sunday and is under no illusions of the task ahead, “the quality they bring is just out of this world at times. Cavan were full value for their win, but I’d say when Monaghan looked at it or analysed it, take the penalty out of it and it was only a one point game and if it was a one point game I’d have fancied Monaghan to get something out of the game”.
Monaghan danger man Conor McManus was held scoreless from play in this same fixture last year, Fermanagh will again hope to curb his influence, “We contained him last year but they had a chance at the very end to draw the game and Conor, if he had that shot again he’d probably kick it over the bar or laid it off.”
“You don’t really contain Conor McManus because he’s going to kick a couple of wonder scores, even with Donegal, you’re trying to contain some players but there are some players who are really difficult to contain, Rory Beggan and so on. I know the last day Stephen O’Hanlon probably didn’t have the impact he would have liked but of what we’ve seen he’s a really, really dangerous player. Conor McCarthy as well, even the Cavan game he had a big impact but he had rushed up from doing exams”
Fermanagh’s most dangerous forward Sean Quigley was reported to have been in doubt for this contest due to injury, a rumour which Gallagher soon denied, “That’s sort of old news at this stage really, he nicked the hamstring about a week before the Donegal match but he rehabbed fairly well so we wouldn’t have any major concerns about him”.
While Fermanagh carried huge momentum through their league campaign, Donegal had enough to push passed them in the Ulster Championship, leaving the Erne County with a lot to learn, “We thought we were defensively sound, only for the small things that didn’t go our way, we realised we’re able to compete against Donegal and Monaghan”.
“We probably need the wee things to happen for us and make them happen but overall we probably learned that, defensively we can compete fairly well with a team like Donegal or the team of the quality of Monaghan, who’d be very similar. We also learnt that we need more scores on the board as well which is what we knew going into it but we just weren’t capable of doing it on the day”.
Their league form provided them with more positivity than their Donegal performance did and Gallagher believes the Fermanagh men are getting better every day, “We would like to feel that the players are improving and getting better. I suppose every team can look back at the league and look at points that maybe they could have picked up and they didn’t and we certainly feel there were games like that”.
Having lost their last three competitive games, Fermanagh’s defensive based approach came under severe criticism, although Gallagher isn’t too worried about pundit’s opinions, “To be totally honest I pay absolutely no heed to it, we’ve no interest in it. The only interest we have is preparing Fermanagh to win football matches, the rest of it is just noise and if people actually went to watch some of our league games, we regularly attack with a lot of numbers”
Monaghan are the bookies favourites to find their name in the hat on Monday morning, but Gallagher is more concerned with the Fermanagh men’s performance rather than the result, “If we’re in the game heading down the stretch, we’ll see where it goes from that and that’s all we can hope for really is to be in the game and be competing for every single ball and that’s really how I see it going. Whatever it shows on the scoreboard after that, it shows on it but it’s our intention is to go and compete the best we can and see where it takes us.”