Fermanagh aiming to down Derry ... but they must do it without Seamus Quigley
Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup: Section C Round 2: Sunday: Brewster Park (1.30): Fermanagh v Derry
Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher admitted that he isn't putting as much emphasis on the Dr McKenna Cup this season as he did during his first year in charge.
However, he is still adamant that he wants his side to pick up a win tomorrow when Derry come to Brewster Park.
Gallagher and Fermanagh will need to achieve this without their top scorer from last season, Seamus Quigley, who is no longer part of the management's plans.
Gallagher would not be drawn on the reasons for the Roslea man's absence except to say: “Seamus is no longer part of the panel.”
Gallagher is also without the fleet-footed Tomas Corrigan who is travelling, but the corner forward is due back in March of this year to bolster the squad. Gallagher is looking to build on a positive 2018 that saw the Erne county promoted to division two and reach an Ulster Final for only the second time in 35 years.
Last year they reached the semi final of the McKenna Cup playing Donegal, Monaghan and Tyrone in the campaign. In his first year last season Gallagher used the pre-season competition as a means of arriving at a settled team.
One year on the priorities have changed slightly:
“The McKenna Cup is probably not as important this year. Last year we were anxious to get as many games as possible as we were new in so this year things are slightly different,” Gallagher explained, although he added that he is keen to go to Healy Park on Wednesday night against Tyrone with all to play for.
“We have 26 or 28 players who are in fairly good shape so we will take it game by game. We obviously want to get a result against Derry so that we can make the Tyrone game a winner takes all scenario on Wednesday night.”
Fermanagh drew with University of Ulster in their first game in the McKenna Cup before Christmas and there were some new faces on the panel for that encounter, both in terms of players who were squad members last year but who perhaps didn't get a lot of game time and also players who are new to the panel entirely.
One player who falls into the former group is Ultan Kelm, who Gallagher reveals he has been impressed with:
“We would be pleased with Ultan. He was only 19 last year but has worked hard and developed very well over the course of the year.
“We also have Conor Magee who was involved last year who is coming back into it and getting game time now and we would be hopeful he can push on.
“It is all about players stepping up and trying to make that first 21, 22 players and adding something fresh to the whole thing.”
Looking further ahead to the league Fermanagh will find themselves in division two this season and Gallagher believes it is vital that they operate at as high a level as possible to reach their potential come championship.
“Playing a better quality team is important. It is an exciting league and without being disrespectful to some of the teams in the league last season this year is going to be much more exciting in terms of who we are playing. It gives the players the chance to improve more,'' stated Gallagher.
“But it is also important that we prepare properly and train to a high level to give us the best chance of winning games.”
With momentum growing towards a two tiered championship playing in the top 16 in the league could be vital in terms of where teams find themselves in the summer and while Gallagher says that he and his players are not thinking about the implications of a tiered Championship at the present moment, he is clear that they see themselves as a team who should be operating in the top tier.
“I don't agree with a tiered championship but it certainly seems that for the powers that be it is heading that way,'' he said.
“We have not been overly thinking about it to be honest but Fermanagh sees itself as a top 16 team and we have to go out and prove that.
“I know for certain that this current group would not want to be playing in a B championship.”