| 6.9°C Belfast

Fermanagh must be at very best to avoid drop: O'Callaghan



Tough test: Richard O’Callaghan admits Fermanagh are up against it in bid to stave off relegation

Tough test: Richard O’Callaghan admits Fermanagh are up against it in bid to stave off relegation

Ryan McMenamin

Ryan McMenamin

Tough test: Richard O’Callaghan admits Fermanagh are up against it in bid to stave off relegation

When Ryan McMenamin took up the reins as Fermanagh manager, he had hoped to trigger optimism and buoyancy within his squad.

But the Tyrone triple All-Ireland winner has been finding the going tough in his new role to such an extent that only a spirited recovery operation can ensure they enjoy their tenancy in Division Two of the Allianz Football League for another year at least.

Firmly rooted to the bottom of the table with just one win from four outings to date, Fermanagh face Armagh tomorrow night in the first of their last three scheduled fixtures knowing that anything other than victory could have grim consequences for them.

Richard O'Callaghan is among the players in McMenamin's side who wears his heart on his sleeve - a whole-hearted, resolute defender who needs no reminding that his task and that of his defensive colleagues will be of herculean proportions against an Orchard County side still with the scent of Division One in their nostrils.

In their most recent outing, Armagh could only manage to draw with Westmeath while conceding 3-12 in the process and O'Callaghan is aware that Kieran McGeeney's side are not likely to be as benevolent at the back this time, thus rendering it difficult for the Ernemen to post scores.

"There is no doubt that Armagh have been racking up some big scores. You would have to say that the way in which they came back against Westmeath would have left them disappointed they did not come home with both points," insisted O'Callaghan.

"We will of course have to try and curtail them because they have some quality forwards so we must be at our best but mostly we will just worry about ourselves.

"We've three games left, there are six points up for offer and we can potentially finish on eight points, but that's a big ask. We need a big performance this time out so that we take delivery of the two points, especially in what is a home game for us."

Few either inside or outside the Erne County will brook any argument with O'Callaghan's assessment. Under Rory Gallagher, Fermanagh acquired a reputation for focusing on a defensive strategy but since McMenamin took over they could be said to have adopted a rather more expansive strategy.

However, Armagh assistant manager Jim McCorry maintains he will not be too surprised if Fermanagh tend to batten down the hatches a little more tomorrow night with caution as their watchword.

"Fermanagh are always tough opponents, especially in Brewster Park, and we expect another very difficult encounter this time round," asserted McCorry. "You're looking at two Ulster teams who will go hard at each other given what is at stake.

"The theory is that Fermanagh are playing a bit more attacking football and are more open now.

"But all the remaining games in Division Two are going to be tight the whole way through and we'll just have to play what's put in front of us."

If Fermanagh are in a desperate quest for the points to ensure their survival in the top bracket, then Armagh are equally anxious to claim the spoils of victory as they pursue promotion.

McGeeney's men are in joint third place along with Westmeath with both teams bracketed on five points while Roscommon lead the field on seven points and Cavan are in second place on six despite that shock loss to Clare last weekend.

McCorry is in no doubt that with so little separating the teams in the top half of the table the remaining matches in the league will carry something akin to a Championship flavour.

"Obviously with a growing focus on Tier Two of the All-Ireland Football Championship and all that this entails, teams are desperate to improve their status," stated McCorry.

Meanwhile, the Armagh v Donegal Allianz Hurling League Division 3A final has been switched to Carrickmore on Sunday.

The match had originally been scheduled for Glennon Bros Pearse Park, Longford but the fixture-makers have sensibly decided that the game should now go ahead which will facilitate followers of both teams.

Indeed, their arrival in the divisional decider has sparked a mini hurling fever in each of the counties with Armagh manager Padraig O'Connor stressing that the outcome of the tie could have important benefits for his side.

"Obviously this is not hurling at elite level but it will competitive, honest and committed. Both counties have managed to keep the hurling flag flying and each side will be doing their utmost to come out on top," commented O'Connor.

Belfast Telegraph