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Barry Mulrone is sure Ernemen are on the up and up

By Declan Bogue

It seems like just the blink of an eye since Barry Mulrone was first stepping into Malachy O'Rourke's Fermanagh side, a swashbuckling defender who was fond of a rapid dart upfield.

Yet when he looked around the dressing room over the winter, he discovered that at 26 the insurance worker was the second oldest player there.

Only Ryan McCluskey, a senior debutant in 2001, is older.

Last Sunday against Queen's, Mulrone tracked his marker out the field from corner-forward and put in an eye-catching display in a loose role, kicking two points and narrowly missing out on a third.

Clearly, he was displaying the benefits of his first injury-free pre-season in years with a more slender build.

He has hailed the winter work as successful so far, saying: "Every man at the minute is more than happy to get the hard yards put in.

"Leon Carters is our strength and conditioning man and he is doing our fitness work, he's absolutely superb at his work.

"Then you have Brian Treacy coming in, Raymie Johnston as well. In terms of our training, you have everything set for what gameplan you are going to use.

"As soon as you come in you are told what will be done during the session.

"You know you are going to do the hard work anyway, but every man realises there is competition for places. We are in such a better place than where we were this time last year and everyone knows that, and is happy to get the work done."

Fermanagh have a younger look this year. Kinawley's James Allen was making his debut last Sunday at full-back and commanded his square. James McMahon of Roslea brought his club experience to bear, while Ryan Lyons (Erne Gaels) and Eoin McManus (Teemore) were also blooded.

Injecting a bit of realism into their task tomorrow when Derry come to Brewster Park (2pm), Mulrone added: "The Queen's game was probably a good game for them to come in as it wouldn't have been as high-intensity as the game on Sunday will be."

With Donegal using the competition as an extended trial period, Fermanagh entertain ambitions of making it to the semi-finals of the January competition.

"Last year's showing in the McKenna Cup, there is no other word for it but pathetic, but we just put our heads down now and say that we are looking to get that extra game in the semi-final," added Mulrone.

"We have our hard work done but every team is in the same boat. Having said that, we would be looking to keep our level of performance going throughout the 70 minutes. That's what we are looking to do."

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