Peter Canavan has issued a warning for his Fermanagh players for the forthcoming season that the work undertaken this year will be nothing compared to the next step.
The 2003 All-Ireland winning Tyrone captain was appointed manager of neighbouring Fermanagh in late November last year, leaving him with very little time to conduct a trials process before shaping his squad. The procrastination in his appointment - which was delayed as the county held an outside inquiry into well-documented team matters in 2011 — also scuppered the crucial prehabilitation strength and conditioning work.
Talking about the level of demands placed on players by counties such as Dublin and Donegal at the Ulster Bank GAA Force chat night in Killyclogher, Canavan said: “We haven't, so far, made those demands on Fermanagh players — getting up at 6.30am to get a training session before their days' work, and as soon as you come in again, getting into the car to go to training — doing that maybe three times a week.
“Now, we are ready to move onto the next stage in Fermanagh and there's going to be serious commitment required by everyone involved in the team.
“For various reasons some players can't commit and a lot of times it's not my decision, it's often their decision.
“Certainly, the players that I want from now on will be committed 100%.”
Last season started brightly for Canavan and Fermanagh, with early wins over Antrim and Queen's in the Dr McKenna Cup, as well as the encouraging pointer of a stirring comeback against Tyrone.
To the fore of those efforts was full-forward Seamus Quigley, who hit 1-8 in the first two games against Antrim and Queen's. The talented Roslea man then went on to accumulate 5-43 in their National League campaign, as they clinched promotion out of division four.
However, as the Championship match first round game against Down approached, Quigley missed training on more than one occasion.
He lost his starting place for the Down game but was introduced in the second half. Before the first round qualifier game against Cavan, he withdrew from the panel, citing an inability to continue his commitment to the panel.
Responding to a question from the audience about the possible return of who could only be interpreted as Quigley, Canavan took an overview of the panel as a whole, stating: “It's the start of a new year and the principle we had last year was that the best players in Fermanagh hadn't been putting themselves forward.
“It's the same in Tyrone and it's the same in a lot of other counties, sometimes that's not the case and there are players unable to make the sacrifices and commitment needed to compete at senior level.”
He continued: “We're not talking about one player, we are talking about three or four players in Fermanagh who are in that at the minute; for different reasons they can't make the sacrifices necessary.”
Accompanying Canavan on stage was Down forward Danny Hughes, who spoke about stay-away players.
“As a county player, if a man like Peter Canavan came in and was good enough to take over your team, anybody who couldn't give the commitment shouldn't be playing.
“I would say that there should be no question that if Peter Canavan came in and invited players onto the Down panel and the commitment wasn't there, then that doesn't say much for them as a person.”
After the way in which Donegal have swept to their second successive Ulster title and reached the All-Ireland final, Canavan realises the critical importance of physical preparation and is looking to implement similar practise in the Erne county ranks.
“Donegal are yards ahead of anybody else in terms of their physical fitness and the demands that he [Jim McGuinness] has placed on those players,” he said.
“It's not a coincidence that they dominate teams in the second half, they are stronger and fitter.”
Canavan also revealed that he has no ambition to eventually take over as Tyrone manager, preferring not to tread on the toes of his former manager and clubmate, Mickey Harte.
“It's certainly a challenge where I am at the minute, but I think there's a man there who is more than capable of it. To be honest, it's not a dream. Going up the Hogan Stand as a player to lift the Sam Maguire, that was a dream.
“From my own point of view, I'd sleep every night if I didn't get to manage my county.”