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Fermanagh are looking up ahead of huge Wexford match

By Declan Bogue

One point this weekend could make an enormous difference to the lives of the Fermanagh football team.

They face Wexford away, and take a formidable record of five games played, four wins and one draw on the road with them.

The home side meanwhile, have won only one of their games, and that was against fellow relegation strugglers Limerick.

All the Erne men have to do is get a draw, and they would be automatically promoted. Their nearest challengers Tipperary could pull level on points with them, but would fall foul of their head-to-head defeat in Brewster Park earlier this month.

Going from Division Three to Division Two does certain things for a team. For example, Setanta never show any teams south of Division Two in their Saturday night coverage, and the same applies for TG4 on Sundays.

When the old argument of imposing a two-tier Championship is brought up, the Division Two sides manage to avoid the leper's bell of being a 'Tommy Murphy Cup' candidate.

This Sunday could represent the high point of Ryan Jones' playing career.

Since making his debut under Malachy O'Rourke in the 2010 league campaign when they were relegated to Division Four, this is the closest he has come to smashing that glass ceiling.

Although only 24, the pharmacist has played under four county managers at this stage and is the current vice-captain.

In appraising the progress of the current panel under manager Pete McGrath, he cites the importance of getting a settled pre-season over the winter.

It was impossible to do so the previous year given how McGrath arrived in November 2013, but Jones explained: "The boys put in a lot of work after the campaign finished last year against Laois and the management team got together. They got boys who they felt would add to the whole thing, they got things in place as regards to maybe strength and conditioning, they got the pre-season sorted out, wee things like that."

They went on to have a decent showing in the McKenna Cup, beating Derry and letting Donegal off the hook with some poor shooting on goal, but nonetheless.

However, the Derrygonnelly Harps clubman said: "Even competing against those teams gives belief within the squad and that's what Fermanagh needed at this stage, in my opinion."

And after the January pre-season, the group sat down for some useful goal-setting exercises, Jones reveals.

"The original target was to win the first two games, and then to get promotion, as we set out at the start of the year, as simple as that," he said.

In order for the Erne men to achieve that, a new philosophy had to be defined.

After leaking 12 goals in last year's National League, they knew they had to build from the back. The result is that after the first five games, only Offaly have a tighter defence in the country than Fermanagh.

"You have to be solid in defence and not leaking scores easily. We sat down and realised this is something we had to work on," said Jones.

"This year, we have improved but in a couple of games we have not been up to scratch, even against Limerick last week we conceded two goals and since that game we have been addressing it, saying it is not good enough going forward," he added.

"Yes, we have improved, but we know we have a lot more to work on."

For now, Fermanagh have their targets within reach, and know the rewards.

"Division Two football would be of a higher standard and it would be more intense. That's where we want to be," said Jones.

"We realise that, look, we are not getting carried away, we have a job this Sunday against Wexford and we are going down there to complete the job."

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