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Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath praises influence of Eoin Donnelly

By Declan Bogue

To the wider world, Eoin Donnelly only truly came to prominence with an incredible midfield performance in Fermanagh's Championship defeat to Cavan last summer, catching numerous kickouts in the second half.

Hailing from one of the smallest clubs in the county in Coa O'Dwyers, Donnelly has rose all the way to be named as Fermanagh captain for 2014, with Roslea's Conor Quigley as vice-captain.

It's all the more impressive considering he fractured his leg in the middle of the National League last year against Monaghan to recover and emerge as one of their leaders during the Championship.

Erne county manager Pete McGrath spoke about his decision to elevate him to captain, ahead of their season-opener against St Mary's (tomorrow night, Brewster Park, throw-in 8pm).

"I have only known him a certain number of weeks but he has impressed me with his whole demeanour and the way he has carried himself.

"He is an excellent footballer, in the couple of matches I have seen him play I have been very impressed with him.

"With Conor Quigley as vice captain, they are two very positive individuals and I think they are well placed to be leading this team."

Coa also have another player involved in the set-up as Leon Carters was appointed strength and conditioning coach last week. Carters had actually been approached by Peter Canavan and asked to join the panel as a player last season, but declined due to his commitment as a centre-half with Ballinamallard in the Irish League.

"I am glad to have someone on board that the players know," explains McGrath.

"The fact that he works local makes it very easy for us to dovetail with us. It's just a question of getting up and running."

McGrath has been with his players for seven weeks now and has been encouraged with what he has seen so far.

"You can see advances in terms of fitness. Of course they are aware of what is involved in county football at this level and it's just me getting a handle on them.

"We have had three challenge matches so far, they were very useful.

"In the weeks ahead I will come to terms with the players, what they can do, who is going to be most effective in which positions. I would like to think that by the middle of the National League we will know exactly where we stand with what this panel can do."

And while he is giving the McKenna Cup panel their chance, the former Down supremo is not against recalling players who he is giving an extended break to. Barry Owens recently became a father to twins, while Ryan McCluskey also has started a family and has indicated he will return sometime towards the latter stages of the McKenna Cup.

"(The squad) is open ended and there are people like Ryan McCluskey and Barry Owens who will be back, I'm convinced of that.

"Richard O'Callaghan was due to play for St. Mary's and Che Cullen for Queens; people like Brian Cox who is currently injured and Eoin Donnelly who wasn't playing today because of the hand injury that he has.

"I know that when all these people are in harness and available we will have what I think is quite a formidable team."

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