GAA Football

Fermanagh look to repeat last year's wins over Longford in Division Three opener

The return of Che Cullen is a huge boost for Fermanagh as they begin their Allianz Football League campaign with a home game against Longford Picture by Philip Walsh
Gareth Cauldwell

FERMANAGH and Longford meet in Ederney this afternoon and both sides will have their sights set on making a winning start to their Division Three campaign.

They have been regular opponents in recent years, meeting twice last year, with Kieran Donnelly's Ernemen coming out on top in both the League and Tailteann Cup encounters at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park.

However, it is Midlanders who will carry the favourites' tag into this clash after a positive pre-season that saw them land the O'Byrne Cup thanks to a victory over Louth in last week's final.

Former Dublin star Paddy Christie has taken the reins at Longford and having brought a number of seasoned performers in the shape of Gary Rogers, Daniel Mimnagh, James McGivney and David McGivney back on board he has enjoyed a bright start to his tenure.

Fermanagh's Dr McKenna Cup campaign saw them lose to Tyrone and Derry, although manager Kieran Donnelly would have been happy with some aspects of those performances, especially not conceding a goal in either game, while he was also able to blood some new faces.

Donnelly has been boosted by the return of key players with the Cullen twins, Che and Lee, now back in the squad having missed the last couple of years.

Che played both McKenna Cup games and will be a key figure in the Erne defence, while Lee is working to get up to speed having recently returned from Australia.

Donnelly does, though, have a number of injury concerns. Captain Declan McCusker is a doubt having picked up a knock, while the manager must decide whether to include attackers Sean Quigley and Darragh McGurn from the start as they have been working their way back to fitness having missed the McKenna Cup.

The Erne boss will surely be tempted to start both given Fermanagh's struggles up front, while they will also look to the likes of Garvan Jones, Ultan Kelm and Ryan Lyons for scores. They will be hoping that they are able to give Rogers, Iarla O'Sullivan, Andrew Farrell and the Longford defence plenty to think about.

At midfield, the experienced Ryan Jones and Brandon Horan will hope to give Fermanagh a solid platform, although Longford have a strong pairing in that sector in Darren Gallagher and Fergal Sheridan.

And the Midlanders do carry plenty of threat up front. Dessie Reynolds hit 3-3 in that O'Byrne Cup final last week and along with Mickey Quinn, David McGivney and Keelin McGann they have players who can pick off scores.

Defence, though, is where Fermanagh are at their strongest. Cullen will add physicality to the full-back line and in Johnny Cassidy, Luke Flanagan and Shane McGullion they have quality operators who they will hope will be able to shut down the Longford attack.

Games between the sides tend to be close affairs and this one is likely to be no different. In the last meeting, Ultan Kelm's late goal sealed a 1-12 to 0-12 win for Fermanagh in the Tailteann Cup and a goal could be a decisive score again for whoever can bag one.

GAA Football