Peter Canavan talks to his Fermanagh charges. INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Croke Park should be a beginning for teams in the spotlight today

Whatever about Wexford, but for Longford, Wicklow and Fermanagh today’s finals cannot be about one day out at HQ.

GIVEN THE NOVELTY of the occasion for some of those involved, it may seem a little unfair to start with a negative.

But given the new-found standing of three of the four sides involved later today, picking up a minor trophy should be an afterthought following on from a major and vital accomplishment.

To Wexford in a moment as they should see themselves as a team above all this. But for Longford, Wicklow and Fermanagh, it cannot be about one day out.

On the back of impressive promotions, gradual building into more than a footballing footnote should be the aim rather than some silverware. This summer and particularly next season are infinitely more important than anything that will happen later today in Croke Park.

Wicklow were talking about momentum all week and that word is usually dragged out before the Division Three and Four finals. But let’s be honest about those involved in the day’s first game.

Neither will win their opening encounter in their provincial championships and should they hope to become more than a nuisance down the line, it’s not today that will make that happen. It’s being competitive against better teams in their new divisions and eventually getting into a position where they are capable of going even a rung higher.

There is a distraction in that Division Four final as Fermanagh and Wicklow are the only two counties in the land never to win anything at senior level. But a Division Four trophy is hardly a great assault on that record. Win or lose, today should be a celebration for them because they’ve already achieved their goals and what Harry Murphy in particular has done is worthy of huge praise because his was a role no one should have wanted.

While Mick O’Dwyer showed the county what they could be on the odd magical occasion, Murphy could easily have been the morning after a serious night out. Instead though, he’s done what O’Dwyer could never do, and never showed any great interest in doing. He has taken the county to where they can now advance as a team and learn from a better quality of regular opposition, rather than hoping for the occasional summer ambush.

Peter the Great

Canavan has been different in that he arrived into the ideal situation and as shrewd an operator as the Tyrone man is, you can be sure he knew as much. Last year, Fermanagh were the worst team in the football for a number of off-field reasons but it’s only four years since they nearly won an Ulster title and with a chunk of the county’s best players returning, things could only get better. But while Canavan couldn’t lose, that didn’t mean he would win. He has done though, regardless of the result here.

Longford, too, have been big winners so far this season and they’ve achieved because of patience. Glenn Ryan could easily have been sent packing long before that famous win over Mayo or that Division 4 victory but in a county of limited resources both trust and time are key. Others could learn from that. After they rattled Tyrone in the qualifiers last year, goalkeeper Damien Sheridan said that loss was a beginning rather than an end.

It was an prediction every bit as impressive as his performance between the posts that day because Longford have done things the way they should be done. They’ve taken some baby steps, drawn breath and moved on again. It’s impossible not to want them to do well although this evening’s game could be a step too far, even if Laois in the first round of Leinster may not be.

The reason Ryan and Longford face a tough time is because Wexford are the best team on show today by a distance. They are not a Division Three team and there promotion is only putting things right. Should they climb into the Hogan Stand it will be subdued because they are a group that should be eyeing bigger prizes. People often get caught up in the Dublin-Kildare narrative from last year and forget that wasn’t the end of the story in Leinster.

That was the last four, Wexford were in the final, might have won that final and are amongst the best 12 teams in the country.

The nine changes they’ve made to their teamsheet proves as much as they’ve genuine top-notch players in Ciarán Lyng and Red Barry, a classy playmaker and free-taker in Ben Brosnan, warriors in Colm Morris and Eric Bradley and one of the best full-backs around in Graeme Molloy.

We expect bigger things from them after today, but it’s the other three that should be thinking that way too. This league should be a start, not an end, and these finals should be a small reward for what they’ve done over the last few months, rather than the culmination of all those efforts.

Join Ewan MacKenna from 4.45 on The Score for all the live action and reaction from today’s double header at Croke Park. If you have any opinions, feel free to contact Ewan at or