GAA Football

Fermanagh begin season with trip to Clones for clash with Monaghan

Fermanagh will be without their Derrygonnelly Harps contingent at Clones tomorrow. Pic Philip Walsh.

Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Section C, round two: Monaghan v Fermanagh (tomorrow, Clones, 1.30pm)

KIERAN Donnelly's first competitive game as an inter-county bainisteoir is on familiar ground against familiar opponents' tomorrow afternoon.

The Fermanagh manager had a successful spell with Monaghan top dogs Scotstown before he turned his attention to his native county so he is well aware that his young squad is in for a valuable early test at Clones in the 2022 opener.

“We're looking forward to it,” said Donnelly.

“We got together in mid-December and we've been through the whole trial process and this is the next stage of our development.

“We have a very young squad with a lot of new players in and we'll only learn about them in this sort of environment. That's the beauty of the McKenna Cup, both teams can try out different players but it brings that sense of competition and you see how players respond to it.”

Fermanagh will be without the contingent from county champions Derrygonnelly Harps who are preparing to face Down's Kilcoo in the Ulster Club Championship final on January 16. The absence of those players leaves an obvious hole in his squad but, on the flipside, Donnelly will be able to run the rule over some emerging talent.

Bellanaleck clubman Garrett Kavanagh and Joe McDaid – Hogan Cup winners with St Michael's, Enniskillen at full-back and midfield respectively – have been called up and so has Teemore Shamrocks forward Ronan McCaffrey, a former minor skipper.

“It's great to see Derrygonnelly going so well and the whole county is behind them in their push for a first Ulster title,” said Donnelly.

“But it does leave a massive gap for us and we've had a Covid outbreak over this last couple of weeks too so it has been a real balancing-act to get the squad together to train. It's all about getting us ready for the National League and it gives me a chance to look at other players who might not have got a chance. You have to look at it from that point of view.

“We definitely have talented lads coming through but there's a massive jump up to playing for your county at senior level. It's about their application and attitude towards taking the next step with these players and the new lads we've brought in have all that.

“They have stepped in and done well and shown that they're willing to tick all the boxes – it's a massive commitment but it's a commitment that's worth taking on because they're getting the chance to maximise themselves and we hope to get the benefit of these players for the five-to-10 years.”

Monaghan's season began with a trip to Owenbeg last night and Donnelly expects a thorough examination as his young side match themselves against the Farneymen at Clones tomorrow.

“Monaghan are a Division One team and they've been at the cutting edge this last number of years and competing for Ulster titles and getting to All-Ireland semi-finals,” said Donnelly.

“We know they have a really strong squad. I've been involved in Monaghan club football so I'm very aware of the talent that's in the county. I know a lot of the Monaghan players and this will let me know where our boys are individually. It's all about getting a performance for us and focussing on the way we want to play and our own standards – I think that's the aim for all the teams in the McKenna Cup.

“We've got Antrim in the first game of Division Three and they've been going really well and improving under Enda (McGinley). They are an up-and-coming team and they really are our main focus. They will expect to have a good Division Three campaign as we will ourselves so that first game is massive for both teams.”

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GAA Football