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Return of Barry Owens will give Fermanagh a lift

By Declan Bogue

Fermanagh corner-back John Woods says the return of the county's only two-time All-Star, Barry Owens, will give Pete McGrath's squad a huge lift as they prepare for the remainder of the league.

Owens, who impressed the All-Star steering committee enough to win awards for his performances in 2004 and 2006, is due to make a return to training next week, after McGrath allowed the veteran Teemore Shamrocks full-back a couple of months to ease himself back to fitness after he became a father to twins with his wife, Caroline. The 32-year-old will bring some much-needed experience to the full-back line.

Last year while Owens struggled with a shoulder injury, Anthony McGuinness deputised on the edge of the square.

By the time of the Championship, Brian Cox was stationed there and with Cox injured at the start of this campaign, Derrygonnelly Tiernan Daly has been filling the number three jersey.

"It's definitely a lift," said Woods of Owens rejoining for the rest of the season. "Barry is experienced, he mightn't want you saying it but he is an older head and an elder statesman.

"Boys will look up to him, having watched him playing and if they can learn one thing off Barry, then they will hopefully he will be back and fit."

It may seem a tall order for Owens to reclaim a starting place with this weekend representing round four of the National League but as Woods explains, "People say it is a short enough period of league for inter-county football but these next few weeks and months will be a long enough time." Last Sunday Fermanagh coughed up a nine-point lead to Longford to finish losing by the narrowest of margins, something Woods has struggled to swallow this week.

He said, "People would say it would not really set you back, but it was definitely disappointing.

"Any way you throw away that kind of lead is always going to be gut-wrenching, but in a way you have to take the positives from it.

"Really, we definitely were worth our nine-point lead. We played great football for that opening 25 minutes. You have to take the view that kind of performance is possible."

Before the outset of the season, Woods appealed to the Fermanagh support for patience with what is largely a new, young team. He re-iterates that plea now.

"When you look at the number of young boys coming in this year and making their debuts for the county, like Tiernan Daly, the Cullens, Aidan Breen all coming on they are inexperienced at inter-county football and they maybe thought it was a nine-point lead and thinking it might have been a handy day," he said.

"But if you step your foot off the pedal in county football, teams can just crucify you. When you ease off for a bit you can get turned over."

He added: "There is no point in Pete (McGrath) trying to change the world in a couple of months and boys who are just not used to it. He is giving boys the tools to learn with."

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