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Erne must build on strong start: Gallagher

By Declan Bogue

Facing Tyrone in this weekend's first Dr McKenna Cup semi-final, new Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher has declared his pleasure at how things have gone with their 100 per cent record from the three group games.

The Erne men have accounted for the experimental teams of Monaghan and Donegal, while they had to claw back the students of Queen's to rescue a win.

Gallagher, who won the 2012 All-Ireland title as assistant manager to Jim McGuinness with Donegal, stated: "January is about getting a bit of competitive football. We only have two college players in Conor Murphy and James McMahon and we are looking forward to getting them integrated.

"But it is good to get out playing. I enjoy the McKenna Cup when you have a full pick. It is well documented that the colleges are in and it's maybe heading for the end of the road for the colleges, I don't see them out in the other provinces.

"To beat Monaghan and Donegal, two established Division One teams, it is better than looking for challenge games - we got a lot out of it."

He also pointed out the importance of a new management team bedding in, Gallagher being assisted by his brother, former county goalkeeper Ronan, Shane McCabe and Tyrone's Ryan McMenamin.

"It's a huge bedding in process," he said.

"We are learning about the boys, we have only been together now for seven or eight weeks since we got to know them.

"It's a period of feeling your way in. Obviously I would know Ronan well and Shane fairly well. But we have Ricey as well and we are all gelling.

"That's part of the challenge now. There will be good days and bad days.

"That's the reality of inter-county football, it will be a test now for us as a group for the days to come, that you are able to grind them out and come out on the other side of it."

Elsewhere, with Section A complete, the other semi-finalists are down for decision after a raft of games were called off last week due to the hard frost.

In Section B, Derry and Armagh have a winner-takes-all clash in the Athletic Grounds.

Armagh can leapfrog Derry with a win although given the comments of their manager Kieran McGeeney, it is hard to guess their levels of motivation.

"Whoever gets through to the semi-finals is going to have to play three games in seven days," he pointed out.

"More than likely it's going to be one of us (or Derry), but whichever team goes through to the semis has three games in seven days, which is a big ask."

New Derry manager Damian McErlain has used the opportunity to blood plenty of youngsters that previously saw action under him as minor boss.

Should Derry beat Armagh, the last place will go to either Monaghan or Donegal if one of them win their clash in Clones, leaving them as the best-placed runners-up in the group stages.

The other semi-final will take place on Wednesday night.

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