For Erne defender Lee Cullen, it has been an impressive start to the new season with two solid performances in Fermanagh’s two opening games in the McKenna Cup against Monaghan and Queen’s. 
Lining out at wing back in the clash with the Farney men, he filled out at full back against the students where he made a goal line save in the dying moments from Fermanagh native, Conor Murphy, to secure the win for his team;
“It was just sort of instinct. I just got in on the line and it came at me and there wasn’t much to do except catch it,” Cullen said, downplaying his role in the win.
In that Queen’s game Fermanagh got over the line by a point in a contest where they struggled for the opening period and the talented defender concedes that there are plenty of areas for improvement: “They got off to a flyer with the goal and then tagged on two points after that so we were five down which wasn’t ideal obviously, but to be fair I don’t think we panicked,” Cullen explained, adding that the work on systems of play is something that the team are just getting in to now with the new management.
“We knew that we would get back in there and when we did we took a bit of control but there is no doubt that the start and how we played was concerning. To be fair though we have been concentrating on a heavy pre-season and we are really beginning to work on how the boys want us to play now so I would be very confident that people will see some big changes in that regard.”
Cullen, however, has already seen one early change in the Fermanagh approach on the field this season and it is one that he approves of;
“We have been more aggressive in the tackle I think, and just more aggressive all over and it is definitely something that I enjoy. I am enjoying the roles I have been given so far. I played midfield for a time last year and it was my first time there. I am probably more comfortable in defence but to be honest wherever Rory wants to play me I will play.”
A trait of Cullen’s play to date has been his marauding runs forward and in the modern game it is not uncommon to see players from the full back launch attacks and take the ball deep into the opposition territory and this is certainly something that Cullen is relishing at present: “I think it is pretty clear how Rory plays. If you see green grass in front of you then you just go and someone else will cover you. And we are all getting used to that now but it is great to be able to get forward when the chance comes.”
It certainly seems that the Belnaleck man is enjoying his time as a county football and he and his twin brother, Che, have become regular faces in the green of Fermanagh in recent years. Cullen was speaking to the Impartial Reporter the day after the Queen’s game having just completed a gym session in Dublin, where he lives, and while he accepts that there are huge sacrifices to be made and a lot of training to be done he explained that he would not have it any other way. “I know there are concerns with how much inter county players do but I think the thing is that we want to do it. We want to push ourselves and I think you have to if you want to be successful. To be honest there is nothing else I would rather be doing.”
Let’s hope Cullen and his teammates are in for a long season.