There will be a pang of regret for Devenish club man Marty O’Brien when he watches Fermanagh parade behind the band in Clones this Saturday evening. Long term injury forced his retirement from inter county football at the start of this season and it is with mixed emotions that he will venture to St Tiernachs Park.
“I have a feeling it will get to me a bit more watching the boys in Clones. My wife is from Monaghan so that would have made it a big occasion too,” he says laughing, but it is clear that not pulling on the green is something that O’Brien is still getting used to.
“You want to play, and that is especially true of big games. So it will be tough but to be fair retiring was the right decision and really the only decision to make too.”
O’Brien has been suffering from knee problems for a number of years and as 2016 drew to a close it became clear that his days of swashbuckling adventure from the Fermanagh defence were over; “There was a procedure that could have maybe prolonged things but when even the chance of that disappeared then it was time to realise that there was only one option,” he says without any hit in his voice that he feels hard done by.
O’Brien still dons the blue of Devenish and as a clubman to the core he will do for as long as physically possible but his training is limited and he can’t push the body in the same manner that he once did.
“We played five games in five weeks there and to be honest I am very glad of the rest. It was difficult. I can’t train how I would like either so it is just really a case of managing as best I can at this stage.”
O’Brien has made the first steps into the world of punditry since his retirement with the weekly GAA internet show, ‘GAA Weekly Live’. Broadcast live on Facebook every Monday night O’Brien’s contributions have been insightful and honest.
When it comes to the championship clash with Monaghan, O’Brien believes there has been some “stretching of the figures” by some headline writers who have suggested that Fermanagh will be down nine men for the encounter. O’Brien, Damien Kelly, Richard O’Callaghan and Conal Jones are all included in that number.
“When Pete sat down at the start of the year he wouldn’t have had myself or Kells (Damien Kelly), Richie or Conal in his plans and he has been without Ruairi (Corrigan) all year too and has also played a lot of games without Ryan (Jones) in the league as well, so I think when you actually look at it the team that plays against Monaghan it will be very similar to the teams that took to the field for the league games,” O’Brien explains while he also believes that the squad won’t be thinking of any of those who are absent for one reason or another.
“When you are involved yourself and in with a chance of playing that is all you are concentrating on. As individuals the players will be preparing themselves and they will know that they are good enough to play and compete.”
O’Brien concedes that his former team-mates will be going into the game as underdogs and he says there are a number of areas that the team need to work on if they are to pull off what would be a big upset.
“It was well documented that Fermanagh only scored one goal in the league and that at times there were spells in games where defensively they could have performed much better but the players will know this better than anyone and they will have been working on improving both those aspects,” he said before adding; “It is a real balancing act between getting defence and attack right, especially with the way the game is played now.
“But I think we have players with the sort of athleticism that you need to get that balance right. Eoin Donnelly is one of the most mobile midfielders about and Barry Mulrone can defend and kick you a score while the Cullen twins can get up and down all day long and there are other players too, so it is a case of bringing it all together for the game.”
O’Brien and co will be live on Facebook on the Monday after the game at 7.30pm with their refreshing mix of chat. The panel, that has included guests such as Ricey McMenamin and Aaron Kernan, deal with not only the big issues of the day but also with topics that exercise the opinions of grassroots members and it is a role that O’Brien is relishing.
“Well I sort of chat football every day of the week anyway,” he explained.
“It is just the way it is. The Sunday Game and the national papers can maybe only look at the big games and that is understandable but I think people want to hear about other things too, like the debate about club players and the role county managers are having in the game so we try and cover everything.”
Let’s hope O’Brien is covering a Fermanagh win when he next settles onto the sofa for his weekly Facebook chat.