When Fermanagh slumped against Tyrone in the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup a fortnight ago, long-serving midfielder James Sherry declared that Peter Canavan’s men were faced with the prospect of “learning quickly” in advance of the Allianz National League.
Just how well the lessons from the McKenna Cup have been absorbed will become clearer on Sunday when the Ernesiders make the long trip to Aughrim to face a Wicklow side that has been rejuvenated under Harry Murphy.
Sherry, bitterly disappointed with the manner in which he felt Fermanagh capitulated to Tyrone, makes no bones about what he feels is the enormity of the league challenge facing the team.
“We are going into what we feel will be a very competitive Division Three starting with this game against Wicklow at what is regarded as a very inhospitable venue and this underlines for starters just how hard things will be,” said Sherry.
“Besides Ulster pride will be at stake, too. Antrim, Monaghan and Cavan are in the same division and you can be sure that bragging rights will be up for grabs when the action gets under way.
“All four teams will be keen to make the step up to Division Two, you can be sure of that.”
A series of injuries served to minimise Sherry’s involvement with the team last year and he returned to action in January against a backdrop of optimism.
The setback against Tyrone leaves him in no doubt that Fermanagh have “a lot of work to do” if they hope to make any impact in the league.
“We gave away a lot of ball and made too many mistakes against Tyrone,” said 28-year-old Sherry, a Dublin-based physiotherapist.
“While I acknowledge that we have some young players in the side, I think we all, without exception, have to start learning quickly to be ready for the league.
“We have a lot of work to do. If we don’t improve we will go nowhere. Our aim is to try and get up into Division Two and test ourselves against the better teams there, but our performance against Tyrone would not serve to encourage us that we are capable of getting there.”
Sherry believes nonetheless that under Peter Canavan Fermanagh have the capacity to up their level of performance.
“We put in a few hard weeks of training before Christmas and we got a couple of heartening results in the early stages of the McKenna Cup, but the real test of our worth starts today,” adds Sherry.
“Peter did not mince his words following our loss to Tyrone and I know he will be expecting much better from us on Sunday so it is up to us as players to deliver.
“It would be great if we could begin our league programme with a win. This would help to boost morale and provide us with encouragement. You have to try and get off to a good start otherwise there is the danger that you could be left behind.”