GAA Football

Enniskillen Gaels preparing well for first Ulster SFC test since 2006

Enniskillen Gaels before the Mannok Fermanagh SFC Final win over Erne Gaels of Belleek. Pic Philip Walsh
Kenny Archer

ONLY one man missed Enniskillen Gaels' relatively rapid return to training after they ended their 16-year wait for Fermanagh SFC success – and that was manager Simon Bradley.

To be fair to him, he had the excuse of a prior commitment in Cork, but he was delighted at the collective desire from his players to drive on and give Ulster their best shot.

The Gaels take on a side similar to themselves, Gowna, who won the Cavan SFC for the first time in 20 years, having also lost the previous year's county final.

That attitude from a young team has raised Bradley's hopes that Enniskillen might enhance their provincial pedigree – and stopped him using the phrase 'bonus territory' when talking about their involvement in Ulster.

"I haven't used that phrase 'bonus territory' since then at all because what really caught me on the Sunday night was two or three of our senior lads, who are maybe 21, 22 came over and said 'Look, Simon, what about Wednesday night? Are we training Wednesday night?'

"I said 'I don't want you training if you're full of drink – and they said 'No, we think we need to get together, even if it's just a kickabout, we think we need to go Wednesday night.' I said 'That's great.' We had originally planned to go Friday, Sunday, Wednesday.

"The Wednesday night everybody turned up, in Belfast and Enniskillen - bar me, I had a prior engagement in Cork. That came from the players, which I thought spoke volumes about them."

Bradley knows that the Cavan representatives should be a realistic test for his team: "They're mostly young players, they are quite a young team, although they're probably two or three years older than us and they have three or four experienced players, there's no doubt about that. That is an advantage for them, but then we have home advantage, which is an advantage for us.

"From an experience point of view, you're probably sitting there going 'First time out, these guys are really going to get their eyes opened to a certain extent about what Ulster club football is all about' - because it is a top competition.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing how our boys handle the first quarter. That's going to be a real 'set the tone' - both teams will try and dominate, both teams really will try and get in the first couple of big hits, get the first score, get the crowd going, all that type of stuff. I'm really looking forward to seeing how our players react to that."

Enniskillen Gaels already have Ulster medals in their collection: "As somebody reminded me, I think there's 10 of that squad were involved with the Ulster minor club team [winners in 2017]. And even though that's a juvenile competition, that's a big competition too in the GAA calendar.

"Look at [Derry champions] Glen, for example, they would have put a lot of emphasis on that, Cross' [Crossmaglen Rangers] would have put a lot of emphasis on that. So there is a little bit of pedigree there, if you're looking at the form guide going back. The boys were quick to remind me that they've got an Ulster title."

GAA Football