Gallagher: 'Ricey' has been breath of fresh air for Erne
It may still be January, but last Sunday's Dr McKenna Cup semi-final between Fermanagh and Tyrone was competed for as if it were July.
If this is a glimpse of the level of determination in the home side already, then disregarding the result on a pitch, Erne fans will have been encouraged so far as they prepare to welcome Wexford to Brewster Park for the start of their Allianz League Division 3 campaign on January 28.
In the middle of it all was a familiar face to both sets of supporters - three-time All-Ireland winning Tyrone legend Ryan McMenamin, who is now a selector for his neighbouring county under manager Rory Gallagher.
In his role as a runner on and off the pitch, McMenamin was a visible presence, leading Tyrone manager Mickey Harte to quip afterwards: "It was good to see he can still run and talk."
Gallagher has hailed McMenamin's arrival as a "breath of fresh air".
He added: "Maybe the 'Ricey' factor brought the big crowd today.
"He's just a really infectious guy. From a management point of view he is great to deal with and he brings a lot that the boys can learn from and I know they are enjoying working under him and I hope we can get the benefit of that."
Gallagher had no previous dealings with the Dromore man but his reputation as a leader inside a dressing-room and in underage coaching with his club had travelled far.
He explained: "I suppose I was looking for somebody I felt that had the skill-sets that might help myself and others in the management team and I had heard a lot of what he had done coaching-wise in his career.
"He was a player that made any team he played in better and he helped the players around him and we are hoping he will do that for our defenders and players all over the pitch."
Midfielder Eoin Donnelly is now in his seventh year of county football, most of them spent as captain, a role which he retains under Gallagher, and he has been impressed with the new management team which includes former county players Ronan Gallagher and Shane McCabe.
"They are passionate, they have played the game quite recently," began the Coa O'Dwyers' man.
"They are heavily involved in teams at a good and a high level and they are trying to bring us up really to what they have experienced in the past.
"So they have more insight that they can bring to get us up to that level."
He continued: "The training has been top quality and every night we are going to training you feel you are being pushed and drove on.
"It's my seventh year playing and you feel you want to continue to improve instead of tailing off at the end of your career.
"You want to feel like you can keep pushing on rather than drifting off."
Donegal player Neil McGee revealed that, when Jim McGuinness and his assistant Gallagher were in the early stages of the team's development in 2011, he found it difficult to get to sleep at night, such was his body adjusting to the pain of rigorous training.
Their hallmark was always that they wanted to be the county team that trained the hardest on that night.
Asked if the Fermanagh team were embarking on something similar, Donnelly answered: "Every management team that comes in, they want to hit the ground running. They want to start with a good impression.
"I think all the managers we worked under have always been pushing us very, very hard in the beginning stages because everybody wants to impress and get to a fitness level to be selected.
"It's hard to know what other teams are doing.
"We feel we are training hard and putting in good work. But realistically we don't know what other teams are doing so you can only put in the work yourself."
He added: "It's tough training, but at the same time Leon (Carters, fitness coach) has been there throughout Peter McGrath's time as well.
"We have a good understanding of Leon and Leon knows the players as well.
"If you are going away from training you are realising that there is stuff to learn here, stuff to do and we can get better if we do these things."
Meanwhile, tomorrow's second Dr McKenna Cup semi-final between Armagh and Donegal will be played in Ballybofey after Donegal won the toss for home venue.
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.