Fermanagh looking for home comforts in Ulster MFC opener

The Erne county host Donegal this weekend

Conor Mulligan
Conor Mulligan Conor Mulligan (3) will skipper Fermanagh in this year's Electric Ireland Ulster MFC Picture: Margaret McLaughlin (Margaret McLaughlin Photography )

FERMANAGH manager Niall McElroy hopes home advantage will count for something this weekend when his side welcomes Donegal to Brewster Park for the opening round of the Ulster MFC.

The teams clashed recently in the league, with Donegal gaining the upper hand in Ballybofey in early March on their way to making the last four of the competition.

That was one of two league games Fermanagh played, and they finished up on the wrong side of both results. Donegal were 10 points better off in round one, while Cavan earned a 14-point win.

“We’re at home, which is a positive for us for the first day,” said McElroy, now in his second season in charge.

“I think for young players, home advantage probably is a big thing because there’s a lot of extra wee things that are added in for players on Ulster championship day.

“To have a wee bit of familiarity of your surroundings is no bad thing and a lot of the players would be used to the pitch and stuff, so hopefully it’ll be an advantage to us and when you’re bringing another team to your own county, you want to put in a good performance.

“We had a tricky league campaign, we had two games against two good teams in Donegal and Cavan. We gave a good enough account of ourselves at stages in the Donegal game but the game ran away from us in the end.

“We had a difficult game against Cavan in round two and we didn’t really perform well that day, so we suffered another big enough defeat there and that meant that we didn’t qualify for the knock-out stages of the league.

“It’s all systems go now for the championship and getting ready for that. There is a chance to get a bit of work done between the end of the league and the start of the championship and we’re really looking forward to the start of it now and getting going.”

Fermanagh have been drawn in the group of five and will face battles against Monaghan, Tyrone and Down after Saturday’s opener, with the Red Hands also coming to Brewster Park in round three.

The Erne youngsters won just one championship game last season, against Down, while losing to Donegal, Tyrone, Monaghan and Derry so they’ll be hoping for better success this season.

Fermanagh head into this year’s campaign with a much-changed panel from 2023.

“We lost a lot of our squad from last year,” said McElroy.

“We have one regular starter from the Ulster championship matches last year that is still there so really it’s a brand-new team and we’re starting again from scratch almost.

“But, again, it’s a great opportunity for the new boys that have come in and those players and really applied themselves well and they’re mad to go and we’re all really looking forward to the Ulster championship.”

Round one

Saturday, April 6 (12pm unless stated)

Group A

Fermanagh v Donegal (Brewster Park)

Armagh v Antrim (Crossmaglen)

Group B

Derry v Cavan (Owenbeg, 1pm)

Tyrone v Down (Errigal Ciaran)