Fermanagh captain claims own officials wanted them beaten

FERMANAGH captain Barry Owens has sensationally claimed there were county board officials wishing the team were going to be beaten by London in last Saturday’s All-Ireland qualifier.

The Teemore man believes there are individuals in key GAA positions in the county who were delighted with their own county’s downfall in Ruislip.

“It is a sad state of affairs when you have people in the county board hoping you are going to be beat,” he told the Fermanagh Herald yesterday.

Owens has called on the county board to make a quick decision on John O’Neill’s position as manager after Saturday’s shock reverse.

“There will be plenty of talk as usual but I think whatever decision is made needs to be made quickly. The county board are planning a review and they should do it quickly. It is in everyone’s best interests to get everything sorted as soon as possible.”

Owens appears to be leaning towards supporting O’Neill after he blamed the players for the surprising defeat.

“People are always quick to blame the management and I’m sure that they have lessons to learn but at the end of the day when the players go out and do the complete opposite to what they are told what can you do?

“We are very young and very inexperienced and there is no doubt that the pressure got to the players on Saturday and that is understandable.

“We have lost a lot of good players this year but I have trained with those young boys who played on Saturday and I know that they have good inter-county futures ahead of them. They have worked hard but we just didn’t perform against Derry or London.”

Two-time All Star Owens says it is too early to make a decision on his own inter-county future.

“I suppose when you wake up with a dead leg and both thumbs in bits you do think about the future all right but sure we will see. It is too early to think about anything, to be honest.”

Meanwhile, Limerick boss Donal O’Grady has made two changes to the team which lost agonisingly to Waterford in the Miunster SHC semi-final for Saturday’s All-Ireland qualifier against Wexford.

Blackrock’s David Moloney replaces Damien Real at right half-back while Damien Hannon, who missed the clash with the Déise as he was preparing for his Leaving Cert, comes in for his championship debut instead of Richie McCarthy.

Elsewhere, Galway manager John McIntyre took a scalpel to his misfiring side with five changes for Saturday’s qualifier against Clare — with captain Damien Joyce among the casualties.

The return from injury of free-taker Ger Farragher and Iarla Tannian is a huge boost.

Veteran Alan Kerins, who was only recalled to the squad a few weeks ago after a two-year absence, starts at left corner-forward while Donal Barry returns to the half-back line and Andy Smith is given a midfield role. Barry Daly, Eanna Ryan and Aonghus Callinan are dropped while, in a positional switch, Shane Kavanagh reverts to full-back and David Collins moves to corner-back.

Tipperary senior hurling manager Declan Ryan has said his panel have no injury concerns ahead of the Munster final against Waterford on Sunday week. “It’s the first game we are going into this year, touch wood, with a clean bill of health,” he said.

Brendan Maher, an automatic All Star choice last year in the middle of the field, also starred at half-back for Tipperary in a glittering underage career and, with Tipp having struggled in that sector, the temptation will be to play Maher on the wing.

“Well we haven’t given it much thought,” said Ryan, straight-faced, before breaking into a grin.

Waterford’s Michael Wadding has been handed the whistle for Saturday’s All-Ireland SHC qualifier between Limerick and Wexford at the Gaelic Grounds.

Limerick (SH v Wexford): N Quaid, D Moloney, S Hickey, T Condon, W McNamara, B Geary, G O’Mahoney, D O’Grady, P Browne, N Moran, J Ryan, D Hannon, G Mulcahy, K Downes, S Tobin.

GALWAY (SH v Clare): J Skehill; F Moore, S Kavanagh, D Collins; D Barry, T Óg Regan, A Cullinane; D Burke, A Smith; J Gantley, G Farragher, I Tannian; D Hayes, J Canning, A Kerins.

ANTRIM (SH v Armagh): C Cunningham; C McGuinness, K McGourty, J McCouaig; K McKeague, M Donnelly, C Herron; B McFall, S McRory; J Scullion, T McCann, E McCloskey; P Doherty, C McFall, K McKeegan.

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