Aaron McManus may live in Ballyconnell and go to school in St Patricks Cavan but on Saturday he will don the green jersey of his beloved Fermanagh and go up against Cavan Minors in round 2 of the Ulster Minor Football Championship at Brewster Park, 6pm.
McManus is the youngest of four boys to Bernard and Martina McManus. All four play and represent Teemore Shamrocks with distinction with Enda 24, Cian 21, Dara 18 and Aaron at 16 making it a Teemore footballing stronghold in the Ballyconnell household.
So the question is immediately put to the articulate McManus, why are they representing Teemore and now Fermanagh, “I suppose Dad was a Teemore man but ended up in Ballyconnell. When we were then all growing up Dad was a selector on the Teemore Shamrocks Senior team and we would all go to football training with him. Next thing Enda and Cian were lining out for Teemore underage sides and to be honest myself and Darragh then just followed suit.”
The powerful McManus is only 16 years of age but his towering figure and profound love of everything to do with Teemore and Fermanagh is a testimony of the fine young man he is.
McManus admits that facing Cavan on Saturday will be a bit strange, “Yeah I would know pretty much the whole Cavan panel by going to school with most of them. I played with 10 of them when St Patricks Cavan won the Rannafast Schools Final defeating St Michaels Enniskillen, but this time I am going up against the players that I know well, but I will be giving it my all to get a win for Fermanagh.”
The Fermanagh side were to defeat Antrim in round 1 with a scoreline of 0-8 to 2-8, the game taking place in Corrigan Park, Belfast. McManus admits that Fermanagh’s victory has grown a huge sense of confidence into the team now, “It was a brilliant win and I just feel our Ulster League performances deserved it. We know defeating Antrim will mean nothing when the ball is thrown up on Saturday in Brewster Park but we have work to do this week and will look at our own game and how we can improve on the Antrim game.”
The Cavan side come into Saturday’s encounter after a bruising victory over Derry, 0-18 to 1-14 after extra time in Kingscourt. The sides were level throughout the game before extra time was needed as the sides were level after normal time, 0-12 to 1-9. Cavan though emerged victorious with late points from Daryl McGurren, Oisin Brady, Cian Boylan and Jack Trainor.
The Cavan performance pleased manager John Brady of the Ramor United club and the result was as epic and inspiring for the young Breffni side to defeat Derry who had won the Ulster Minor Championship the year previous. The game tilted one way and the other but eventually went the way of Cavan, who were only behind once, for a short period in the final quarter of normal time and just about shaded it by the slenderest of margins.
But back to Fermanagh and how they can defeat a sturdy looking Cavan side. McManus is a phenomenal player and may need to do a man marking job on a number of Cavan forwards such as Caoimhan McGovern or Emmet Boylan but for McManus he is taking the game in his stride, “Personally I’d like to be bringing my game,” he maintains. “I don’t like to be going out and deflecting a player. If you’re asked to go out and do that, of course I will, but I like to be going forward and trying to bring my own game.
He continued, “That’s very important I feel because it’s not going out to blot a player. It’s about going out and bring something to the game. But whatever role Phil (O’Connor) has for me, I’ll be ready for it.”
Fermanagh will go into the game on Saturday knowing that if a performance can be achieved then so to can a result, McManus agrees, “We done enough against Antrim and its up to us as a group of players now to push on, every man that comes on makes an impact. Zak Kyle, Aaron McHugh and Lawrence McKeown came on the last day and really pushed us on for victory. There’s that strength in depth and there is a great bond in the team and that is what you need.”
Right now, McManus has exclusive use of his talents at inter-county Minor level and speaks wisdom well beyond his youthful age, in time, his talent and connection with Gaelic games will take him into the Fermanagh Senior squad dressing-room very soon.
Nothing in his short but illuminated career so far suggests that he won’t meet that challenge too, Cavan will know plenty about him, but McManus knows plenty about Cavan.
Ulster Minor Football Championship
Fermanagh v Cavan
Saturday May 12th @ 6pm
Brewster Park, Enniskillen
Referee: Mark Dorrian (Donegal)