Niall Bogue has an extra-special reason for hoping that Fermanagh can scale new heights in the Ulster Championship this year.
It was just when the Ernesiders were stepping on the accelerator to reach the provincial final last summer that key defender Bogue fell victim to a cruciate ligament injury that brought a premature halt to his season.
“It was absolutely sickening,” recalls the 25-year-old trainee solicitor, “I felt I had been going well but the injury ended it for me. I spent months out recovering and only got back in February. But having said that, it’s terrific to be part of the squad again.”
Having only had limited involvement in the National League, Bogue accepts that, given the level of competition there is for starting places in the Fermanagh side, he may have to exercise patience in order to gain Championship recognition.
Yet his track record over a five-year spell since he first joined the panel could persuade Malachy O’Rourke to rely on Bogue’s experience and man-marking ability as Fermanagh bid to erase the painful memory of their dismal National League campaign.
Bogue says: “Let’s be honest, Down had a better League run than we had ourselves and they will be raring to go against us again. They have some very sharp forwards and their team as a whole will be a handful for us.”
Having played alongside the commanding Barry Owens in the Fermanagh full-back line for a lengthy spell, Bogue is perhaps better qualified than most to assess the loss of the former Allstar defender.
“Barry’s ongoing absence is a big blow, no doubt about that. He is making a recovery now from knee surgery and we have been forced to play without him for a while. He is badly missed in every respect, to be honest” explains Bogue.
Noone will be working harder to make up for the loss of Owens than Bogue, though - after all, he feels he has lost time to make up.