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Fermanagh success will be hard earned

When a county that traditionally houses a small pool of elite players discovers that some frontline candidates for inclusion are unable to commit themselves to the cause this can be both disappointing and frustrating.

Fermanagh will host an Ulster Championship Media Night on Friday but would have preferred to do so against the backdrop of a full-strength squad.

The Ernesiders will host Antrim in the quarter-finals on June 1 and while manager Peter McGrath has cast his net far and wide, his 'catch' has not been particularly impressive.

McGrath had targeted some players in particular and the fact that Damian Kelly and Daryl Keenan in particular have turned down an invitation to link up with the squad is viewed as a setback.

Both play for Tempo and are currently in fine form in their club's colours but their personal circumstances rule out their involvement with the county.

Keenan is currently teaching in Belfast while as well as holding down full-time employment Kelly also helps out on the family farm which necessitates rising at dawn and he has also had a new addition to the family recently.

Fermanagh PRO Johnny McManus, while understanding fully the situation in which the two players find themselves, accepts that this does not make manager McGrath's task any easier.

"While it would be great to have players like Daryl and Damian on board, we have to respect their respective situations. They have certainly given the county great service in the past and we would like to think they might come aboard again in the future," points out McManus.

"Both Peter McGrath and Raymond Johnston have been working very hard to improve the squad and their efforts are certainly very much appreciated by all those with the best interests of Fermanagh at heart."

Following the exit of the Quigley brothers Seamus, Sean and Conor and the loss of other players through injury and unavailability, McGrath has been forced to re-invent the Fermanagh line-up.

Yet they will go into the Ulster Championship boosted by having taken five points from their last three games in Division Three of the league.

"While some people might say the opposition was not great, nevertheless the team has acquired a winning habit lately and that's encouraging," states McManus.

Fermanagh chairman Patsy Dolan believes that McGrath will have the team in fine fettle for their confrontation with Antrim in the championship.

"We are at home which is helpful and preparations are going well. The Championship tends to bring out the best in players and we like to think that this will be the case as far as Fermanagh is concerned," says Dolan.

Belfast Telegraph