Erne boss warns there is no margin for error in Ulster showdown
Frustration was the name of the game for Fermanagh in the recent Allianz Football League.
Victory over reigning Ulster champions Cavan was to prove something of a false dawn as Ryan McMenamin’s side failed to secure promotion from Division Three and will now seek consolation when they confront Monaghan in the first of the Ulster Championship quarter-finals at Clones today (3.30pm).
Shorn of a number of established players even before the season began, life was never going to be totally straightforward for Tyrone triple All-Ireland winner McMenamin and given his team’s experiences in the league, especially against Derry and Longford, he now sounds a warning ahead of the meeting with the Oriel County.
“I think the big challenge for us is to be as consistent as we can be over the course of this game,” pointed out McMenamin.
“It’s important that if we are not dominating play then we should be conceding as little as possible. We cannot afford to allow Monaghan to take control of the game. With the quality of players Monaghan have they can rack up scores against us and we have to make sure that we keep our guard up.”
McMenamin is particularly keen to maximise his squad and while players such as Eoin Donnelly, Sean Quigley, Ciaran Corrigan, James McMahon, Jonny Cassidy and Luke Flanagan look set to lead the challenge for a semi-final place, emerging talent such as Josh Largo Ellis and Conor Love could find themselves handed roles alongside Richard O’Callaghan and Declan McCusker.
“We have been fortunate in the last couple of games that players have come on and done well for us and hopefully this will again be the case,” added McMenamin. “I think this is what we have been trying to create in Fermanagh. We want a squad with the right mindset and the ability to keep mistakes to a minimum when the heat is on.
"We have confidence in the young players that are coming through. We have been unfortunate in that a couple of players picked up knocks but you have to go with that. I think you have got to convince players that they are capable of winning games and they did this against Cavan.
"We maybe made it hard for ourselves in some matches but players can learn from experiences like this. As management you have to be brave and give young players a chance and that’s what we have been doing. This can help to inspire other young players who are coming through within the county.”
Eoin Donnelly’s leadership skills and Sean Quigley’s scoring expertise could prove crucial factors in bolstering Fermanagh’s efforts.
With Monaghan having retained their place in Division One of the league, their appetite for another helping of C hampionship success has been sharpened.
Dick McCague has been standing in for the suspended Seamus McEnaney of late and has helped to assemble a side that took considerable satisfaction from their last game in the league in which they beat Galway through a late point scored by Jack McCarron.
With Ryan McAnespie, Conor McCarthy, Michael Bannigan and Stephen O’Hanlon having come to the fore in attack and skipper Ryan Wylie, Karl O’Connell, Conor McManus, Darren Hughes and goalkeeper Rory Beggan continuing to deploy their experience, Monaghan would appear to look particularly well-armed for battle.
Meanwhile, Dublin will begin the defence of their Leinster and All-Ireland titles when they meet Wexford at Chadwicks Wexford Park tomorrow (3.30pm ).
The Dubs line-up has been tweaked of late but there is still a solid core of experience within the side that could make life uncomfortable for Wexford with Brian Fenton, James McCarthy, Con O’Callaghan, Ciaran Kilkenny and Dean Rock on top of their game.
Down hurlers face a stiff test this afternoon when they take on Meath in the Joe McDonagh Cup at Ballycran (3pm ). This is a must-win for Down, who are particularly keen to move up a rung on the All-Ireland ladder.
Manager Ronan Sheehan expects to have a full-strength side on duty but acknowledges that the Royal County have the capacity to make life difficult for his side.
In the Christy Ring Cup, Armagh and Tyrone will lock horns again today at the Athletic Grounds (1.30pm) having gone head-to-head two weeks ago in Division 3A of the league when the Orchard County came out on top.
Tyrone will be keen to avenge that defeat with skipper Damian Casey urging his side to deliver an all-out effort this time round.
And Derry face a stiff test against Roscommon in the Christy Ring Cup at Athleague (2pm). Derry captain Cormac O’Doherty has been in hot scoring form recently and is keen to maintain this at the visitors’ expense.
Louth and Monaghan meet in Group A of the Lory Meagher Cup at Darver tonight (7pm) while Cavan and Fermanagh clash at Kingspan Breffni (1.30pm ) in Group B tomorrow.