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Fermanagh captain Donnelly is pleased to have his say

By Declan Bogue

Fermanagh captain Eoin Donnelly has revealed that frank 'clear the air' discussions after the defeat to Antrim has every player focussed on the job at hand before they face Laois this afternoon (RTÉ 2, coverage starting at 3.10pm).

The Ernemen were strongly fancied to beat Antrim on their home turf but were rocked from the start as they fell apart defensively. After the game, manager Pete McGrath hastily arranged another training session for the Tuesday night to get the toxins out of their system.

Although the first round of the qualifiers were yet to be drawn, the 26-year-old midfielder spoke of the benefits of meeting up and addressing what was a very bad day at the office.

"At that stage we didn't know who we were going to be playing so tactics were going to change according to what we got in the draw," revealed the Coa O'Dwyer's man. "On the Tuesday we went out, we trained, we went in and spoke about Antrim – what management felt about the game, the players had their chance to speak about what they felt about the game and we said we would make sure we didn't have a performance like that again,

"That was that, the line was drawn under it after the Tuesday night, there were club games that weekend and then we had the draw and could move on."

This season Fermanagh had been scoring freely, but also have been wide open at the back.

The reason for all the space the Antrim attack was afforded is down to their change in philosophy.

It left huge space in the Antrim inside line for Brian Neeson to score 1-6, but as Donnelly explains:"I think to a certain degree if you are pressing up on kickouts, pressing up on the play and going man-to-man, if they pull their players out then you are going to have situations like that.

"But you don't want what happened the last day where there was too much space and there wasn't pressure on out the field, the ball was going in easy.

"OK, if you went man to man and they weren't getting easy ball in, then you could turn them over high up the field and you get more scoring chances.

"If we are not tackling out the field and they are finding their men inside, then you are going to have trouble."

It brought Fermanagh's losing streak in Ulster to four seasons and has caused a massive dent to the player's pride, their captain maintains, although there are positives to be taken from it in how they launched two comebacks and got within a goal-line clearance of victory at the death.

"To score 3-13 and be within a kick of the ball of winning the game, there are some positives in that; that we were able to fight back from 11 and 12 points down and get back to within a winning position. It was encouraging in that sense, the boys didn't throw in the towel."

After being included in Peter Canavan's first game in charge back in 2012, Donnelly has become a natural leader in the squad, but he has only won one Championship game – in the backdoor last year against Westmeath.

"That was a Westmeath side bound for Division One and Donnelly feels they can use that as motivation this weekend.

"I don't have that many years under my belt so I look back to last year's win over Westmeath. I think it's pretty similar – a team around Division One, Division Two level, going down to their backyard and they are going to be favourites. We have really got to give it everything we have got.

"You can't be fearful of teams, and I don't really think Fermanagh should be fearful of Laois. It's a chance for people to show what they are capable of, to do themselves justice."

LAOIS (V Fermanagh, Rd 1A Qualifiers): G Brady; P McMahon, D Booth, P O'Leary; D Strong, P Begley, C Begley; C Meredith, J O'Loughlin; J Finn, B Sheehan, N Danagher; R Munnelly, D Kingston, D Conway.

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