GAA Football

Sub-plots not a factor says Jonny Cassidy as Fermanagh meet Derry in all-Ulster Division Three derby

Derry manager Rory Gallagher is up against his native Fermanagh on Saturday. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Andy Watters

THERE are sub-plots galore in the meeting of Ulster rivals Derry and Fermanagh at Owenbeg on Sunday but the central theme of the story is that the victors will have one foot in the Division Three semi-finals.

The round two fixture pits men on both sides against their native county. Derry boss Rory Gallagher is a former Fermanagh player and manager while Ryan McMenamin’s Erne county management team includes Gallagher’s brother Ronan as well as former Oak Leaf bainisteoir Brian McIver and his son Paul.

Both counties began their League campaigns in fine style last weekend. After a thoroughly disappointing 2020, Fermanagh beat reigning Ulster champions Cavan while Derry, who didn’t break any delft last year either, made light of the challenge of Longford, hitting an impressive 21 points in a 16-point win.

Enniskillen Gaels defender Jonny Cassidy says Fermanagh expected a tough test against Cavan but, thanks to nine points from back-in-harness Sean Quigley, they passed it and (after conceding 11 goals in seven League games last year) kept a clean sheet too.

“We have we needed to get off to a good start in the group,” said Cassidy.

“There are only three games so it was important we hit the ground running on Saturday night and we did that. We came down from Division Two last year and obviously we want to get back up this year.

“Last year, things went against us – it was only the Armagh game that we were played off the park. Silly mistakes cost us in a lot of games and we felt that we weren’t too far away in them.

“We need to cut out the mistakes and having Sean Quigley back is a massive lift for us. It’s all about us trying to support him as much as we can because if you get him the ball he can do the rest.”

Derry boss Gallagher brought Cassidy into the Fermanagh fold for the second of his two season’s in charge of his native county. Cassidy says he “learnt a lot” under the former Donegal boss who took over the reins at Derry last year.

“He is a quality manager and it was a brilliant learning experience,” said Cassidy.

“Obviously he will know some of us very well. He worked with the boys for two years and it will be a bit strange coming up against him. But I don’t think it will be much of a factor in the game, there’s a lot of new lads in our team.

“Some of the Hogan lads (Josh Largo-Ellis, Conor Love and Brandon Horan from the St Michael’s, Enniskillen Hogan Cup-winning team) are in now who didn’t play under Rory so there’s a different look to the team. I don’t think the fact that he managed us will be too much of a factor on Saturday evening.”

Cavan (also relegated last year) meet Longford at Kingspan Breffni on Saturday and Mickey Graham’s men will be determined to bounce back from their first round loss. It’s only the second game of the season but Cassidy is well aware of the importance of the all-Ulster clash.

“Rory will be looking to get Derry up,” he said.

“They were unlucky not to get up last year and they were flying against Longford so we know what they will bring, we know the way Rory sets out his teams – 14 or 15 behind the ball but they still managed to kick 21 points against Longford so they’re a big threat going forward too.

“It’s about us being patient, trying to break them down and not giving too much away at the other end.

“We’re confident that we can turn them over. Beating Cavan was a huge confidence-lift for the lads and now it’s all about backing it up week-in, week-out. We know where we went wrong last year and we’re working on how we can improve it now.

“We simply weren’t at it last year but this year there is definitely more of a buzz around; you can notice it in training, there’s more of a bite and everyone is putting their shoulder to the wheel and we want to push on now.”

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