Monday 5 December 2016

McGrath confident Fermanagh can build on 2015 progress

Published 13/01/2016 | 02:30

Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath (SPORTSFILE)
Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath (SPORTSFILE)

It seems as if Fermanagh have picked up from where they left off.

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After a successful 2015 that saw them return to Division 2 and reach the last eight of the All-Ireland series, Pete McGrath's Fermanagh have hit the ground running in the McKenna Cup.

They have two wins from two, and a draw in tonight's home game with Donegal will be enough to guarantee them a spot the semi-finals.

"We got the extra game last year against Cavan," McGrath recalls.

"And I think that really stood to us going into the League. So if we could get another game or even two that would set us up nicely."

As a manager, McGrath admits he is interested in progressing in the January competition to secure more competitive games, but silverware would, he agrees, be huge for some of his players.

"From my point of view it offers more matches but there's no doubt (winning) it would be a step in the right direction. And there's no doubt it would be a big thing for the players, some of whom have played for eight or nine years with the county and not won a thing."

Returned

The Fermanagh panel has returned en masse for the new season with the exception of Tiernan Daly, who is out with a knee injury.

And despite pulling from just 20 clubs, McGrath has called "eight or nine" new faces into the squad, most of whom have seen action in their two games so far. And the former Down All-Ireland winning manager says it was easier to bring people on board this year after the progress of 2015.

"We had a pretty good year last year so it's fair to say that you are getting a more positive response this time around than maybe 12 months ago."

Fermanagh won't lack competitive games this year: Division 2 will see them play four other Ulster teams along with Meath, Galway and Laois.

"Every match will be a game that you'll go into and think 'we could win this one' and you'll also be thinking you could get beaten because I'll be surprised if there's more than a few points in most of the games," he said.

The Championship isn't much kinder, pitting them against Antrim in the opening round and on the same side of the draw as Donegal and Monaghan, who have carved up the last five titles between them.

"Look it is what it is. It's a cliche but we can't look past Antrim. There's a lot of positive noises coming from them and they have got some players back. It's only January and there's a lot of football to be played before that."

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