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'I Made My Debut Vs London In 2011, A Dark Day For Fermanagh Football'

'I Made My Debut Vs London In 2011, A Dark Day For Fermanagh Football'
By PJ Browne
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"We probably have punched above our weight, but that's what you're always striving to do," says Declan McCusker. The Fermanagh captain feels that sometimes, the county's footballers do not get the respect that they deserve.

Researched showed that in 2015, Fermanagh had the fewest registered GAA players in the 32 counties. "Probably, when you look at it numbers-wise, we should always be in Division 4," McCusker continues.

"Thankfully, I have only played one year in Division 4, my first year playing we got promoted, and have been yo-yoing between Division 2 and 3.

"We've had some brilliant years. In 2015, we got to an All-Ireland quarter-final, and in 2018 we played in an Ulster final.

Fermanagh captain: 'We're disrespected a wee bit'

"Sometimes, I think we're disrespected a wee bit as well. Sometimes we're maybe seen as a 'nice' team.

"Even when we have done well, it's forgotten about quickly. Us and Antrim sometimes are seen as the bottom two teams in Ulster. Whereas for a long time... In 2019, we were one game away from going up to Division 1. People seem to forget about that stuff quickly."

24 June 2018; Declan McCusker of Fermanagh in action against Michael Langan of Donegal during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Donegal and Fermanagh at St Tiernach's Park in Clones, Monaghan. Photo by Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile</em>

Fermanagh's status as a Division 3 team, and their elimination in the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship by Tyrone, means they will play in the Tailteann Cup. They face Longford this weekend in the first round of the new second tier football championship.

"I'm a big believer that the leagues don't lie - you are where you are supposed to be. At the minute, we're a Division 3 team, and that's where we should be. It's up to us to try and change that," says McCusker.


"I made my debut against London in 2011, a dark day for Fermanagh football (a six-point defeat). I only came in late that year. My first full year was 2012.


"I just love it. It's just always been my life. I suppose when I was younger, I was never a superstar. I was never the main man in schools' teams. I didn't start county minors. I've always tried to get better, and I've always wanted to play county football. Ever since I've got in, I've just enjoyed it.

"The craic you have with the boys is just brilliant. When you get a run, and you're playing in those big championship games, it's just unbelievable. I just love it.


"My family are mad into football. They like coming to games, and following Fermanagh. My wife too, she's big into it. I think it's a bit of motivation when they're so into it, and you know that they're getting enjoyment out of it as well."

Declan McCusker of Fermanagh during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

McCusker says that the Fermanagh panel is a "a very young" one, and that winning the Tailteann Cup "would be massive for confidence".

"The best way to improve is winning championship games," he says.

"It's difficult with the Ulster format. You've got so many top teams, and it's hard to get a run of games. If you're going straight into the qualifiers, you could get a Mayo or Monaghan, or another Division 1 team. It can be very hard.


"Realistically, [the Tailteann Cup] is the right thing to do because none of the 16 teams here have a realistic chance of winning Sam Maguire. There are probably 10 teams in the Sam Maguire who don't have a realistic chance of winning it.

"Whereas every team here would feel they have a chance of winning this cup, and if things go right for them, any team could beat any other team - when you look at league results that's what has been happening.

"To bring that format into championship, it should make for exciting games. When you feel that you have a chance of winning silverware, it makes it exciting."


Picture credits: Sportsfile

See Also: How A Kerry Guard Ended Up Playing For The Tipperary Footballers

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