As the hooter sounded on Sunday week at Croke Park a wave of relief swept over the Fermanagh footballers.
For some, such as Captain Áine McGovern who had endured final heartbreak in 2013, there was something more than relief.
“Hard to explain how I felt,” said the skipper. “But I know we had just got out of jail, relief would be a way to describe it alright but I’m not sure, there were so many emotions”
McGovern had been withdrawn through the second half, she was big enough to admit that she had not performed well. She wasn’t alone.
However Emmett Curry’s showed real steel to haul themselves back from nine points down to grab a second chance against well organised opponents.
“You have to give Derry great credit, they worked hard, had a game plan and caused us trouble,” said McGovern.
“Nothing went right for us, we could not win the dirty ball, we never got the rub of the green and too many of us didn’t perform. Maybe it was complacency, after all we had played them so many times, it wasn’t deliberate it was perhaps in our minds, well I can tell you that won’t happen again.”
With 13 minutes left on the clock Derry led by nine. Aisling Woods rattled the net and the comeback was on, Fermanagh dug deep, they had to.
“I was off at that stage, it wasn’t going for me, the game was passing me by, but the girls worked so hard to get back into the game, we could have won it too, but we didn’t get that last free, we face them again and I think the experience from the draw will do us no harm, they will have learnt from it too though.”
While the older players experienced the gut wrenching loss to Down in that 2013 All-Ireland Intermediate Final, they had led by three points but finished up losing by one, McGovern did not want to repeat that experience at headquarters again. I looked up at the score board and the clock, looked up when no-one else was watching and I said to myself, oh no not again. When we got the penalty I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else but Sharon [Murphy] to hit it, the sense of, yes, we have another chance now, was amazing.”
As Curry and the players reflect on what could have been, the positives as well as the negatives, Derry could be forgiven for feeling that they have left this one behind, the choice of replay venue could certainly play a part this Sunday.
Taking Derry to Clones will be a boost for Fermanagh, the Croke Park factor, suggests McGovern could have played a part in the drawn game
“The noise, the build up and everything that goes with Dublin was unsettling for some of the girls, I know even trying to get calls to players amid the noise of the supporters was difficult, the fact we have played at Clones will be a factor.
“Heading to Dublin you stay overnight and that, now it’s in Clones you have your own routine, your own bed, it’s not as much upheaval and we should be more comfortable at Clones, it’s still a great venue, but we should have plenty of support, it will be handier too for those who couldn’t come to Croke Park”
The Erne captain is positive looking ahead to the rematch.
“We can’t play as bad as that again. I thought we had lost another one, I sat there just hoping, once your out of the game there’s nothing you can do but watch and hope something goes your way”
The performance was poor, but McGovern is certain it will improve. That wasn’t us in that drawn game. We have been playing well all year and then we come up with that sort of performance. We all have to step up, but we showed great belief against Derry and while I know that can only get you so far, knowing that everyone of the players will do their bit, leave nothing behind, the way we came back showed me that we are not far away and we can up our game to a higher level, if we do that at Clones we will win it”
The Fermanagh manager will run the rule over his squad again this week, Emmett Curry made no secret that he, Josie Boyle nor Mickey Cadden were unhappy with some aspects of their charges play against Derry. Curry has hinted that there could well be a couple of changes in personnel.
Áine McGovern will lead Fermanagh back to the home of Ulster football on Sunday afternoon, it’s familiar surroundings, a hop, skip and jump from home for many of Curry’s Erne battlers. They may have got out of jail the last day, but expect a different Fermanagh on Sunday. They remain the favourites to claim the all-Ireland title.
Posted: 7:20 pm October 7, 2017