Fermanagh’s Tommy McElroy fully focused on impending Cavan challenge

World leaders may be heading to the nearby Lough Erne hotel but football clash of near-neighbours in Enniskillen still tops local bill

Fermanagh’s Tommy McElroy in action against Antrim. “It’s the smallest things that make a difference in Ulster championship matches.”

Fermanagh’s Tommy McElroy in action against Antrim. “It’s the smallest things that make a difference in Ulster championship matches.”


Every major hotel within 30 miles of Enniskillen was booked out months ago. The Ulster Council have been issuing strict traffic instructions all week, warning of possible vehicle checks. CNN have reportedly applied for accreditation and there is rumour at least one major dignitary may be in attendance at Brewster Park.

Not the sort of fuss usually associated with the meeting of Fermanagh and Cavan in an Ulster SFC quarter-final, and obviously not the only event coming to town. Indeed it’s much more to do with the heads of the world’s eight richest countries meeting at the Lough Erne hotel, five miles outside Enniskillen, for the latest G8 summit, next Monday and Tuesday.

That’s not saying there’s no fuss about the meeting of Fermanagh and Cavan. As neighbours and rivals, both counties will fancy their chances of progressing from what is unquestionably the “softer” side of the provincial draw.

Cavan, who have already beaten Armagh, are looking for a second successive win in the Ulster championship for the first time since 2001. Fermanagh are even more keen to make amends for their two successive defeats last year, to Down, and then Cavan, Sunday’s opponents, in the 2012 qualifiers.

Home advantage
No wonder Fermanagh were so eager to retain home advantage at Brewster Park. The fixture was made last October, the G8 summit then booked in a month later, forcing the Ulster Council to get additional security clearance, and so only last month the game was confirmed for Enniskillen. “From day one we were delighted to get the home advantage, because we haven’t had too many games at Brewster Park in recent years,” says Fermanagh forward Tommy McElroy

Rumours abound that one of the G8 leaders might arrive a day early in order to catch the game. Barack Obama maybe? “Well haven’t heard yet,” notes McElroy. “But we’ll keep him a seat just in case!”

Fermanagh have also witnessed Cavan’s four-point win over Armagh in the preliminary round, on May 19th. It was a somewhat surprising result, or at least the apparent naivety of Armagh’s open game was: McElroy agrees to some extent, but feels Fermanagh can’t afford to abandon the sort of blanket defence that has served Ulster teams so well recent times.

“Everyone was a wee bit surprised at the way Armagh set up against them. But had Jamie Clarke’s goal counted, you never know what would have happened, and the plaudits could be going for Paul Grimley and the way he set up.

“It’s the smallest things that make a difference in Ulster championship matches so it’s hard to know. But over the last number of years everyone has sort of been operating with blanket defences. It seems to be what’s bringing success.”

On top
Cavan were impressive nonetheless, particularly Martin Dunne, scoring 0-9 (0-8 from open play). Cavan may have beaten them in the qualifiers last summer (3-13 to 0-15), but Fermanagh came out on top in their Division Three league meeting (1-12 to 1-10).

Manager Peter Canavan led Fermanagh from Division Four last year, in his first season in charge, before enduring the difficult 2012 championship. Fermanagh haven’t forgotten the low point of 2011, when they lost to London in the qualifiers.

“We all know we had the ability, and that was not where we should have been. We’ve worked hard the last couple of years to get ourselves back up, probably a wee bit disappointed we didn’t get promotion this year, but it’s something we can work on next year. Obviously Peter has been there and done that and he’s got a wealth of knowledge to go with it. . . he has so much to offer in terms of management.”

With Monaghan awaiting the winners in the semi-final – and a potential shot at Donegal in the Ulster final (assuming they beat Down) – there is extra incentive for both Fermanagh and Cavan.

“I’d question is there a nice side of the draw in Ulster? . . You get no easy matches in Ulster so we just take them as they’re coming.”
l Fermanagh against Cavan throws in at 2pm: all Fermanagh and Cavan clubs have been issued with specific instructions on how best to approach the grounds (see the Ulster council website for full details).