Allianz National Football League Division Three: Wicklow v Fermanagh (tomorrow, Aughrim, 2pm)
KIERAN Donnelly had a good idea as to the size of the Fermanagh job before accepting the role last September.
But after last Saturday night’s morale-sapping home defeat to Antrim, the job probably felt bigger again.
For the Brookeborough clubman, the most disappointing aspect of their nine-point opening day loss was how easily they succumbed in the final 12 minutes as Antrim notched an unanswered 1-5 with little resistance.
A re-run of those dozen or so minutes must have made for painful viewing for Donnelly’s players during the week.
In many ways, it doesn’t matter if Fermanagh were playing Tyrone or Wicklow – the singular objective in Aughrim tomorrow will be about retrieving some lost pride.
If Fermanagh can do that, the result will look after itself.
A couple of observations from Brewster Park: it’s doubtful Fermanagh will face a better opponent in Division Three this term than Antrim. While a number of the Derrygonnelly contingent featured last Saturday night, they will be fully integrated after another week’s training as the bitter memory of their Ulster Club final defeat fades.
Psychologically, Fermanagh should be better prepared for tomorrow’s second NFL game of the season.
Conall Jones is also back after missing the Antrim game due to exams.
The Derrygonnelly sharp-shooter should add more of a cutting edge and confidence to a faltering attack that mustered just four points from play against Antrim, while management will hope the younger crew members learned quite a bit from the chastening experience.
Fermanagh have corner-back and midfield issues ahead of tomorrow’s 155-mile trip to Aughrim with Luke Flanagan and Joe McDade struggling with injury.
Last summer, Wicklow caused a major upset by winning promotion to Division Three at the expense of Cavan. That day in Navan, Wicklow were full of mistakes but also full of industry – and it was that latter quality that saw them over the line.
Twelve of that winning team featured in last weekend’s five-point defeat to Westmeath – a game Colin Kelly’s men were leading before Rory Stokes, one of four debutants in Mullingar, was dismissed just before half-time.
Kelly, who had managerial spells with his native Louth and Westmeath, was encouraged by what he saw in his first League game in charge of the Garden County.
“For me, it’s about improving incrementally and trying to introduce a style of play where instead of leaving dressing rooms and trying to contain teams, we want to get our win ratio higher,” said Kelly.
Aughrim has been a bit of a graveyard for Ulster teams in recent years. But Fermanagh just might carry enough of a sting to get themselves up and running and banish the blues of last weekend.