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Huge test: Ryan McMenamin is set for a tactical shoot-out with Jack O'Connor

Huge test: Ryan McMenamin is set for a tactical shoot-out with Jack O'Connor

�INPHO/James Crombie

Huge test: Ryan McMenamin is set for a tactical shoot-out with Jack O'Connor

Fermanagh manager Ryan McMenamin is facing into his first Allianz Football League match against Kildare on Sunday aware that his team, in common with a lot of other sides, will be under pressure from the outset.

McMenamin's men will travel to Newbridge to face Kildare knowing that an initial brace of points could set the template for their campaign.

Last year under the guidance of Rory Gallagher, Fermanagh flirted briefly with making the jump into Division One before losing their last two games which scuppered their chances of promotion.

Right now, though, Tyrone triple All-Ireland winner McMenamin is not looking beyond the Kildare game, aware that he will be pitting his skills against former Kerry All-Ireland-winning boss Jack O'Connor.

The Lilywhites have turned to O'Connor to transform their fortunes having been out of the spotlight of late but McMenamin is hoping that any spark of a revival will not be at the expense of his side.

O'Connor has replaced Cian O'Neill as Kildare boss with Ross Glavin and Tom Cribbin serving as selectors.

During his time in charge of Kerry, O'Connor won three All-Ireland titles with the Kingdom. In recent years, he has been involved with Kerry minor, Under-20 and Under-21 outfits.

But he has made it clear that he is now fully committed to restoring Kildare's status.

"I'm looking forward to it because I retired from my teaching job last May so it's the first time since I started managing that I'd be able to give full-time commitment to this job. I intend to give it everything and see where that takes us," insisted O'Connor, whose two sons have been playing for the Moorefield club in the county.

While McMenamin acknowledges that he will be coming face to face with one of the highest profile managers in the game, his total focus is on ensuring that Fermanagh progress in the league.

"From the start of the year the league has been our chief focus irrespective of anything else," explained McMenamin.

"Obviously we had to fulfil our obligations in the McKenna Cup but the league is what it is all about now. There will be greater pressure on teams because of the fact that relegation from Division Two would result in participation in Tier Two of the All-Ireland Football Championship rather than the top tier."

Fermanagh lost to Down and Antrim in the McKenna Cup but McMenamin still believes these matches were of value to his side as they afforded new players the opportunity to get game time.

While he still has a number of experienced players available to him, the loss of Sean Quigley is seen as a blow since he is normally a rich source of scores for the team.

"Sean and I had a chat and he wanted to step out for a while but the door is not closed on him. We have to keep our options but it's important that we now go with what we have available to us in terms of playing resources as we stand now," pointed out McMenamin.

Eoin Donnelly, Aidan Breen, Ciaran Corrigan, Richard O'Callaghan and the fast-emerging Ultan Kelm are among the players who will be in the vanguard of Fermanagh's bid to make an impact, while Stephen McGullion, Darragh McGurn and Eoin McManus represent the newcomers who are bidding to capture regular places in the side.

"We have brought in new faces and we want to see competition for places stepped up. It's important that we get points in the bag early in the league so that we are not left to try and play catch-up. We have difficult matches ahead of us but that is a challenge we should relish. The incentive is there to try and reach Division One," pointed out McMenamin.

While McMenamin will be missing some key players, his opposite number O'Connor has serious concerns about the composition of his midfield pairing in particular.

Three prime candidates for this department - Fergal Conway, Aaron Masterson and Kevin Feeley - are currently sidelined with injuries with the former, the Kildare Player of the Year last year, thought likely to be absent for the entire league campaign.

O'Connor has called additional players into his squad in a bid to combat this setback but his resources overall will be stretched for this opening fixture.

Belfast Telegraph