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Across the line

Speaking to Fermanagh players, management and supporters the metaphor of the moment seems to be the line.
The line that players will cross this afternoon when the talking stops and the action starts. The thin line between success and failure. Getting across that line to win a first Ulster title.
I don’t think the choice of phrase is accidental. Psychologically, lines conjure up thoughts of borders, the boundaries between the known and the unknown.
Fermanagh are on the brink of something very special here and I think people are sensing that. The Ulster Senior Football Championship was first contested in 1888. Since then every county in the province has managed to take home the biggest prize. Every county except Fermanagh.
After 130 years how an Ulster title is won remains terra incognita to Fermanagh footballers.
The county has come agonisingly close in living memory. Undone in the second half in 1982. Taken to a replay in 2008.
This generation of Fermanagh players has matched those illustrious predecessors and, given the infrequency of final appearances for the county, they have already written themselves into its history and lore.
The question that needs to be answered today is does this group of players have what it takes to get across that metaphorical line? To go from being a good Fermanagh team, to being legends?
The addition of one quality this season makes me think they can.
In a word that quality is ruthlessness. Pete McGrath did a lot of worthwhile groundwork with these Fermanagh players. Their fitness, discipline and approach to the game can not be questioned.
The one thing the side lacked was killer instinct when the big games were in the melting pot. When it was put up to them, it was Fermanagh who took the backward step.
Historically Armagh have bullied Fermanagh more than most. Disposing of them in the Ulster quarter-final was a promising augury.
Monaghan might have taken Fermanagh for granted in the Ulster semi-final, but when they finally got to the pace of the game they found that not only was their opponent up for some street fighting, but they were prepared to go the extra mile that counted. Fermanagh stayed in the arm wrestle when previously they would have folded.
This unscrupulous intensity of purpose is what Rory Gallagher, Ryan McMenamin, Shane McCabe and Ronan Gallagher have brought to table.
Donegal will be Fermanagh’s toughest opponent to date. However Fermanagh will also be Donegal’s toughest game so far.
Fermanagh are expecting a tough game. Are Donegal? When Fermanagh up the stakes, will Donegal be in a position to follow?
These will be the key questions posed today. But this time, more than ever, Fermanagh can be confident they have the answers.
It’s just a line, nothing to fear. We have what it takes. Let’s cross it.


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