While Carlow dominated the GAA headlines two weeks ago with their famous victory over Kildare, it's well and truly Fermanagh's week as the neutral's favourite.
Rory Gallagher's side recorded a late victory over heavy favourites Monaghan thanks to captain Eoin Donnelly's last minute punched goal, and Fermanagh have been on the receiving end of a lot of praise for their display since. Former Tyrone footballer and member of the Fermanagh backroom team Ryan 'Ricey' McMenamin joined OTBAM yesterday and when quizzed about their tactics and approach he claimed there was no real system other than their full forward line working incredibly hard.
Joining the show this morning was former Dublin footballer Tomas 'Mossy' Quinn, and he praised the work being done and the success being had in such a small county, but claimed there was a lot more going on than the forward line working hard.
"I don't disagree with what he's saying, that if you get what he describes as the front three, so the full-forward line, working hard but I think every team in gaelic football expects that at the moment. It's what's happening with the other 12 guys behind them that's probably the difference between what Fermanagh are doing and what other teams are doing. They're obviously quite structured, but to me that's the first element a lot of teams when they go to this system that's the first thing they bring in, you get your defence set up".
Fermanagh have adopted an incredibly strong work ethic and have become a difficult team to beat. The fact that they're willing to forego the opportunity of scoring more points or playing more expansively just ensure they remain tight at the back is not a negative as certain supposed purists of the game have said. Instead it just means they're sticking to their gameplan, which is to be applauded and not derided as smaller counties have to find a way to challenge stronger opposition as a straight shootout would more than likely lead to a heavy defeat.
However, the question remains over Fermanagh's ability to play this particular brand of football if they go up against a side like Dublin and have to play them on the larger, open field of Croke Park. That very scenario faced Tyrone last year, and in Quinn's eyes Fermanagh's lack of cutting edge in attack could be a problem if they concede early and are forced to play their way back into a game and not remain in their defensive shell.
"They're willing to go into games knowing they're not going to score a lot, they want to win a kind of a dog fight and they've proved very good at doing that. So getting your front three doing that is one thing, but it's what the other guys are doing. They're literally turning their back and running, getting back into situations, closing off space, and it's been effective. Monaghan obviously found it very hard, and it's working, it's being effective. I'm not saying that in a negative way, I'm just saying that it's all well and good the front three working but they obviously need what's happening behind them, and Rory Gallagher has proved they're obviously good coaches in terms of what they're doing".
"Tyrone saw when they faced Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final last year, and I know that Tyrone were slightly more adventurous in Ulster, but when they got to Croke Park Con O'Callaghan got an early goal and they had no Plan B and they couldn't do it".
When asked why larger counties, such as Meath and Armagh, can't have success by encorporating a similar system in the Championship Quinn said that teams like Fermanagh and Carlow have had success because not only have they bought into a system, but they practised it all throughout the league campaign and constantly improved, they weren't just aiming to peak for a single big game, something he feels is a large part of their success.
"It would probably make you ask questions, and it's easy to say because they're winning games, but they seem like an exceptionally well coached teams, both Carlow and Fermanagh. Their league form is testament to that as it's been consistent throughout the year, OK you could argue that the weekend was a bit of a smash-and-grab with the last minute goal, but in terms of their performances they've been consistent, they're getting better. Then when you look at counties that aren't performing and you kind of say 'hang on, were they consistent during the league and are the signs of improvement there?' ".