A battery of Fermanagh’s finest young players face into a week of action that could potentially define their careers.
Manager Peter Canavan, anxious to bolster his resources for a concerted bid to gain promotion from Division Three of the league, is poised to give his new breed of players game time in the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup competition.
And some of the players indeed could find themselves being pitched in at the deep end as Fermanagh’s opening match is against All-Ireland champions Donegal on Wednesday under the Brewster Park, Enniskillen floodlights.
The Erne County will confront St Mary’s University College on Sunday week, again at home, completing their programme with a trip to Grattan Park, Inniskeen on Wednesday, January 16 for a confrontation with Monaghan, managed by former Fermanagh favourite Malachy O’Rourke.
Canavan (pictured) has conducted a detailed assessment of the young guns he has brought into his squad and is now ready to observe them in a competitive environment.
“Several of these players have been looking impressive in training and while we certainly won’t be rushing them, it’s important to assess how they will cope with the demands of inter-county which will be a big step up for them,” points out Canavan.
This is certainly very relevant in the case of newcomers such as the Cullen brothers Lee and Che and Ryan Hyde who played in the St Michael’s College, Enniskillen side that won the MacRory Cup last March.
But Canavan clearly feels that if players are good enough then they deserve their opportunity although his squad still contains a strong raft of experience with James Sherry, Martin McGrath, Ronan Gallagher, Shane McCabe, Tommy McElroy, Eamon Maguire and Niall Bogue — all of whom have worn the county jersey for the past decade — still very much to the fore.
The return of Sherry and McGrath from injury is viewed as a welcome bonus, the former having endured particular frustration last year when ligament, jaw, rib and eye injuries took their toll on him at different periods.
Fermanagh liaison officer Ger Tracey believes that the infusion of new blood is helping to keep the old guard on their toes as well as bringing a new dimension to training.
“We had a full-on session at Derrylin in the rain on Tuesday night and you could see that the guys are just itching to get into action again,” says Tracey.
“While we were pleased to get out of Division Four last year, we were disappointed with our performances in the Ulster and All-Ireland Championships.”
Tracey adds: “We feel we are better than this and there is an awareness within the squad that we must try and reach our maximum potential this year if at all possible.”