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Gallagher's men primed for a supreme test of character

 

By John Campbell

The most penetrating spotlight will shine on Fermanagh's character tomorrow - and manager Rory Gallagher is fully prepared for this.

His beaten Ulster finalists will meet rejuvenated Kildare in an All-Ireland Round Four qualifier at Navan which has assumed a level of appeal that would not have been thought possible.

Kildare's stunning win over Mayo last weekend has bolstered morale to such an extent that speculation surrounding the team's possible entry into the Super-8s is rampant, while Fermanagh in contrast will emerge from the shadows into the eye of what could prove a ferocious storm.

Gallagher, though, remains cool and composed now that he has applied the finishing touches to his team's build-up.

"I have told the boys that teams do have tough days. The Ulster final was very much a case in point from our perspective," muses Gallagher.

"But I think this Fermanagh squad is a great bunch of lads. They have had a good run this year, they feel they have done a lot of things right and you would hope they will have improved another bit for this game. Notwithstanding that loss to Donegal the challenge now for them is to get past Kildare if they can."

At the outset of the championship, the possibility that Fermanagh might reach the Ulster final and get to within one win of reaching the Super-8s would have been perceived as nothing more than a giddy notion.

Yet, providing his team can prove that they have put that miserable failure against Donegal behind them and produce the kind of performance of which Gallagher feels they are capable, an unexpected extension to their championship season could ensue.

"When we reached the Ulster final all we wanted to do was get over the line but now we really have to go for it all over again," insists Gallagher. "We want to play as many games as we can against the big teams and the Super-8s would offer us the opportunity to do this."

Kildare manager Cian O'Neill has watched his side beat Derry, Longford and Mayo in the qualifiers and believes the players have recaptured their self-belief and pride. But he is conscious of Kildare's erratic championship record.

"There have been many false dawns for Kildare football over the years, including the last three when I've been here," he admits. "There's no secret to the win my players achieved over Mayo. It was all down to hard work, dedication and resilience. We will need all three attributes tomorrow, that's for sure. "

Meanwhile, Cavan manager Mattie McGleenan is expected to meet with county board officials shortly to review the past season.

McGleenan's term in charge officially ended when Cavan lost to Tyrone in last weekend's All-Ireland qualifier but the Eglish clubman has already expressed a desire to remain in his post.

McGleenan took the Breffni side back into Division One in the league before they were halted in their stride when they lost to Donegal in the Ulster Championship preliminary round tie.

Belfast Telegraph

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