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McGrath flings down silverware gauntlet to Fermanagh

By John Campbell

Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath believes that Ulster's success in the recent inter-provincial football championship has not only provided a shot in the arm for the sport in the province but has also offered the Erne county a further helping of belief in their bid to land silverware.

McGrath will send his team into action against Monaghan in Sunday's Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup tie at Clones with a message of encouragement ringing in their ears - and an enormous challenge to face down.

"There are many teams in Ulster who have legitimate claims to say they could win the provincial title and Fermanagh are one of those" he said.

"People will look and say Donegal, Tyrone, Monaghan and maybe then there are a few coming behind that."

"But we know that every game in Ulster is a massive challenge. There is no such thing as an easy game.

"Yet if we come out of the league with the same benefits that we did in 2016, I would be going into the championship feeling very, very positive about what Fermanagh can do."

"We can make a start by getting into our stride in the McKenna Cup and see how we go from there. I believe that Fermanagh are as as good as any other side.

"If they just have that belief and get the exposure that some good games under their belts can bring, then you never know what might happen."

Fermanagh face a robust challenge against a Monaghan side that will be particularly keen to show they can effectively plug the gaps caused by the retirements of long-serving duo Paul Finlay and Dick Clerkin.

"Most teams will have lost players for different reasons, and while we will be without people like Sean Quigley and Ruairi Corrigan who are injured, nevertheless the players who will be on duty for us have the opportunity to set the tone for what we would hope will prove a fruitful Dr McKenna Cup campaign," states McGrath.

No fewer than six Fermanagh players - Eoin Donnelly, Aidan Breen, Michael Jones, Tomás Corrigan, Chris Snow and Declan McCusker - were in the Ulster squad that beat Connacht in the inter-provincial championship final last month, with Donnelly proving an inspirational force as skipper.

McGrath has repeatedly articulated the view that Fermanagh can be "a match for anyone" and is challenging his players not only to make a bold bid to land the McKenna Cup but to launch a strong push for promotion from Division Two of the league.

"I think we saw evidence of Fermanagh's character, resilience and courage through the manner in which they drew with Tyrone in their last league game in 2016 to keep themselves in Division Two," points out McGrath.

"Now I want to see the side build on these assets in 2017. There is no reason why we cannot launch a good drive in Division Two which would maybe provide the impetus for us to go on and try to land a first Ulster title for the county."

His team must face Antrim and St Mary's in Section B of the McKenna Cup after Sunday's joust with Monaghan which is likely to be their toughest test in the competition.

In Division Two of the league, Fermanagh face a series of stern challenges against teams such as Cork, Derry, Galway and Meath.

The Ernesiders lost in the All-Ireland championship qualifiers to Mayo in controversial circumstances last year having reached the quarter-finals in 2015 only to fall to Dublin.

But McGrath is adamant that the experience which his side has gained over the past two years in particular will stand them in good stead for the challenges ahead.

"On an individual level and collectively we have a good mix of talent and I believe there is a lot of potential within the squad," he asserts.

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