Erne men gear up for Orchard Croker clash

Rory Gallagher at last weekend’s encounter with Longford

At times it’s hard to hear Rory Gallagher over the jubilation in the Fermanagh dressing room, but the look of quiet satisfaction on his face tells its own story.
He has just overseen an audacious Erne victory over Longford on their home patch which takes the county back into Division 2 after a one year absence.
“We did the business in extra time and coming down it was about doing the business,” said the Erne supremo. “We haven’t been behind often in the league and today was tit for tat. Longford probably edged it after us having a good start. We got the goal at the start of the second half and you’d think it was a tactic of ours to sit back, but it wasn’t and Longford dominated and then got the goal. Then they appeared to sit back and not push on and probably when they stretched it out to two you felt they were almost home and hosed.
“We defended really well at times and dominated the middle of the field in the last seven or eight minutes. They were dragging us to the ground, but things like that happens at that stage of the game and Seamie [Quigley] kicked three great late frees.
Indeed the rehabilitation of the Roslea sharp-shooter is probably one of the stories of the league, with Quigley more than playing his part in Fermanagh promotion push after a few years in the inter-county wilderness.
“We had to show character and heart, and in the end we had to show quality as well and Seamie’s kick had real quality as well and it’s a great credit to him,” said Gallagher.
“I’m delighted for him on a personal level. Since we put the invitation out to him he knuckled down. He’s the same as everybody else except he’s got that bit more talent.
“Every day Seamie turns up at training is a better day. He’s been a breath of fresh air and I’m delighted for him, he’s put a lot of hard work into it.”
Fermanagh had to do it the hard way though taking on a Longford side who for 71 minutes of dogged football showed precisely why they are such a daunting prospect in Pearse Park.
“We bossed a lot of games, but it’s ironic, if we’d beat Westmeath and drew with Armagh we would still have had to win today because of score difference. I knew it was going to come down to this.
“I came across them with Donegal last year and I think they have even improved massively since then. I went up to see them against Armagh and they were unfortunate to lose that game. I saw a couple of their games on video since and they’re a real quality football team.
“They’ve a measured way of playing, they keep the ball and they work it and they have sharp boys inside.
“It took us to push out and try and win the ball back and I think that’s how we won. We got the turn over near the end, we forced a few errors from kick outs, forced them to kick it long and we dominated then.”
Pressing Longford in those decisive was certainly the main factor in the win. However, hanging in there to the bitter end to put themselves in a position to profit from Longford’s errors showed character, and Gallagher was particularly please with that.
“We know we don’t have a limitless pool of players so you have to have character, heart and resilience and you have to be able to dig deep and dig in. We have done that throughout the league.
“It was disappointing to lose against Westmeath and not finish ahead against Armagh, but in all the games they kept digging and digging and digging.
“Stage one of the season is over. We’re only together really since mid November, but these boys want success and they want to improve.”
Promotion in his first season clearly means a lot to the Belleek man, but Rory Gallagher sees the achievement through the lens of the team and now he wants to take this collective on another step further.
“I’m just delighted. Whether you’re a manager or a selector or a player, you just love being part of a team and I’m delighted for everybody. I’m delighted for the county board too.
“You want to be playing in Division 2. You want games against the bigger counties. You want to be as good as you can be. I’m delighted for the players, they’ve put in a lot of work. I don’t think it’s any work out of the ordinary, it’s what’s needed and they have the quality now to be in the top two divisions and the challenge now is to push on to the summer.”
Next up are Armagh in Croke Park this Saturday. Going into that shot at silverware, one of the most pleasing aspects for Gallagher is the fierce competition for places in the team ahead of that date at Headquarters.
“We know we have Armagh down the line, but we’ve a very competitive squad now. Wee RuairÌ [Corrigan] came in and made a difference near the end. Paul [McCusker] and Danny [Teague] came in early enough. Sean came on and kicked a score, could have kicked a couple more.
“It’s great to get to Croke Park and we’re not a county that has been to Croke Park on a regular basis and we’d love to make the most of us.
But we won’t worry to much tonight. I don’t think Kieran [McGeeney] or the Armagh management will be too worried about it tonight either. We’ll go and play next week and I know there’s boys chomping at the bit for it.
“It’s something we’ve set out to do, create a competitive environment, but in order to do that you need the players, it’s all about them. They’ve bought into it. They’ve accepted they’re not going to win every day. There is very few players who play every minute of every game. There’s players who have been establish who for one reason or another miss training from injury or one reason or another and aren’t at the level.
“You’ve the likes of Seamie [Quigley], Conall [Jones] and Danny Teague who have really shaken it up up front. We have fully fit Ryan Jones this year and that’s a big help as well.”

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