Posted by Shane Stapleton

A great on the field for Tyrone — can some of the great feats from Canavan's playing days inspire Fermanagh?

2013 fermanagh down

There was a time when Peter Canavan did it all on the field, but now he has it all to do on the line as Fermanagh manager.

Sure, the Tyrone legend has made strides already in his brief time as Erne County manager but few expect him to take them to the heights of 2004, when they reached an All-Ireland semi-final, or an Ulster final as they did in 2008.

Or do they? Because with Cavan this weekend and Monaghan pencilled in for a possible Ulster semi-final match-up, Fermanagh have avoided the big boys of Donegal, who took care of Canavan’s county, and Down, who booted Derry out of provincial contention.

Our GAA ambassador Mickey Harte soldiered with Canavan for a number of years and won that elusive first All-Ireland crown together with Tyrone, and he knows better than anyone what Fermanagh have on their side.

“I’ve seen him on the training ground – demanding more of the players around him and saying this is the way it’s got to be. You don’t get to the top any other way so I think he’s got that drive, that grit and determination. It’s just part of his fabric. He had the skill to match it up as well so he didn’t just talk the game, he played the game. Even though he can’t play now for Fermanagh, he’ll instil in them the sense of ‘You can achieve if you put your mind to it’. He’s been good for Fermanagh and I think he’ll be even better this year than he was last year.”

So the Ulster door is ajar if Peter the Great can lead his men through it. Back when the Errigal Ciaran man was strutting his stuff for the Red Hands, he had some epic days… (which you may find in our Weekly Quiz)

Canavan hit an amazing 0-11 in the 1995 All-Ireland final but it will forever irk him that this feat will always go down as one of the greatest displays by a man on the losing side. Dublin won 1-10 to 0-12 and the Red Hands were hugely aggrieved at seeing a further Canavan point ruled out for allegedly picking the ball up off the ground.

A sumptuous display that led to him being crowned Footballer of the Year, though the ultimate prize would elude him for another eight years.

Canavan was so good that Mickey Harte ended up picking him twice in the 2003 All-Ireland final against Armagh. The wonder was whether the star man would be able to start at all after injuring this ankle in the semi-final win over Kerry, but play he did despite needing crutches to walk away from that clash with the Kingdom.

The number 14 in the 114th All-Ireland final was substituted in the first half but came on with seven minutes to go to ensure he became the first Tyrone man ever to lift Sam. There was hardly a more deserving player after all the years of hurt.

Cajones, and plenty of them. That’s what Canavan showed to stand over an injury-time game-deciding free of the All-Ireland semi-final of 2005 facing into the Hill.

An unbelievable example of leadership, as Mickey Harte describes:

“Taking that all important free against Armagh in 2005. People don’t fully understand how difficult a kick that was because he made it look so simple. Here was a kick that was actually going to put us into the All-Ireland final for the second time in three years. Plenty of people could kick that out in the back yard so to speak but the nerves of steel he had to know the significance of that score. That was total leadership. Owen Mulligan had a discussion with him but Peter said ‘No, I’ll take this one.’ That was leadership in not asking someone else to do something that has to be done that requires real steel.”

It took a total of ten games for the Red Hands to go the long route to winning Sam in 2005, and Peter the Great’s 1-1 in the All-Ireland final win over Kerry was huge.

A massive player for one county, and potentially an inspirational manager for Fermanagh.

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