Ulster SFC quarter-final
Donegal v Fermanagh
Sunday: MacCumhail Park, 2pm
Referee: M Deegan, Laois
TV: RTÉ One
Tomas Corrigan says the time has come for Fermanagh to stop being “embarrassed” about declaring their ambition to win an Ulster SFC title.
The talented 22-year-old is one of the reasons the county can dare to dream a first provincial crown could happen in the lifespan of Pete McGrath’s ever-improving team.
While they’ve made good strides in the last 18 months, taking out a top team like Donegal in Sunday’s first round clash in Ballybofey would be the biggest statement and refreshingly, Corrigan isn’t afraid to make it. “There’s no point hiding from it, Fermanagh want to win an Ulster title” he said.
“Maybe Fermanagh people were embarrassed to say that and never believed we could win it. But you’re going nowhere if you have an inferiority complex.
“When you hear people say things like ‘ah, sure Fermanagh are useless’ it hurts. It hurts a lot when your home county is not respected.
“The people is who you do it for at the end of the day, and I suppose we’re trying to put the pride back in the jersey and get Fermanagh people standing a bit taller.”
Corrigan’s form over the last 12 months has helped propel the Erne county into unfamiliar territory. Last summer they went on a great run through the qualifiers to play Dublin in a first All-Ireland quarter-final since 2004.
Although they were tipped to struggle to remain in Division Two after winning promotion, they stayed up comfortably and then hammered Antrim in last month’s Ulster SFC preliminary round tie, their Dublin-based corner-forward hitting 0-9. Now, they get to find out if they’re capable of serious progress.
“I suppose this is the crossroads for us,” Corrigan admitted. “We can continue being the Fermanagh who has a good run in the qualifiers but essentially wins nothing, or we can take the next step and beat one of the big teams in Ulster. Donegal are the kingpins and they’re at home. We will all need 10 out of 10 performances to beat them.
“There’s no reason that can’t happen, but it will take a Herculean effort to beat them.
“It’s a very big step, but these are the games why you leave work for at four o’clock and get home at midnight.”
Corrigan is a trainee solicitor with leading commercial law firm Arthur Cox in Dublin, a career choice he admits is “not the most compatible” with being an inter-county footballer. On Tuesdays and Fridays, he excuses himself from work early to cycle back to his apartment, swap the suit for training gear and hit the road to Lissan, Fermanagh’s training ground outside Enniskillen.
“Because I’m prone to injury I have to do an extensive warm-up when I get there and after training I’m straight down the road again.I take a cup of chamomile tea and honey when I get back just to chill out. I have it well mastered at this stage.”
Tomas’ father Dom played for and managed Fermanagh, taking them to the last eight in 2003. Rory Gallagher played under Corrigan and Tomas has a lot of respect for the current Donegal boss.
“Dad had Rory into St Michael’s (school) to do some coaching and was very impressed with the intensity of those sessions. Rory was a great player for Fermanagh. This is his first meaningful game against his home county but I’m sure he will be able to handle that.”
Fermanagh did beat Gallagher’s Donegal in a McKenna Cup game in January, but with so many changes in personnel and a completely different occasion ahead, Corrigan is well aware it’ll have no bearing on what happens in Ballybofey.
“We have won a lot of games in the last 18 months — but the games we lost represented a juncture. Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final last year, Cavan this year in the league when we were going for promotion, those were disappointing and left us with a lot to think about. Those are the kind of defeats you have to learn from, because we don’t want to keep losing those big games.”
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