Fermanagh manager Peter Canavan is targeting a good run in this year's Power NI Dr. McKenna Cup but he stresses that the most important thing for him is to have the side ready to hit the ground running when they face Wicklow in the league Aughrim on February 3.
Fermanagh certainly benefitted from reaching the semi-final of the competition last year as they went on a winning run after that in the league which secured them promotion to Division Three. And this time around they also will be aided by the fact that they have more time to prepare properly for the season ahead after Canavan's late appointment into the position last season.
"I would like to think that we will have a more settled team this time around than last year," said Canavan. "We were late getting started last year but this time we should be in a much better position to judge what we have. In terms of the competition, it is no different from last year in that I still think we are capable of qualifying for the semi-finals of the McKenna Cup although the priority is the first league game against Wicklow which is a crucial game." Canavan feels that the extra games that comes with qualifying for the knock-out stages of the McKenna Cup is a good bonus.
"Our final group game is on January 16 so that leaves two and half weeks between it and the first game in the league so ideally you would want to have another competitive game and the semi-final of the McKenna Cup would certainly be competitive. It is about bringing players on and if we could have another game before the start of the league then that would be great," he commented.
Like last season, the McKenna Cup will see Fermanagh put out a team that will be a mixture of experience and youth and it is a great opportunity for players to come in and nail down a position for the start of a tough Division Three campaign with Canavan set to review his squad after the competition.
"We have a squad of 39 at the minute and we'll review it after the McKenna Cup. The boys who have come in have all settled in very well and are working very hard but we have only played one challenge game to date and boys can be training well but the best gauge to see whether they have what it takes to make it at county level is in competitive games. Also boys who get in and play well, there is no reason why they can't stay in," he added.
One player though who will miss out though is goalkeeper Ronan Gallagher who dislocated the a/c joint in his shoulder in training this week.
"We have a few injuries including Ronan Gallagher who picked up a serious injury and it looks like he will have to go under the knife which would leave him out for 10 to 15 weeks. This is the reason though that we have carried three goalkeepers and we are happy with the two that are there," he said.
Fermanagh will begin their McKenna Cup with a meeting with All Ireland champions next Wednesday, January 9, and this will be followed by a clash with St. Mary's on January 13 and Monaghan in Inniskeen on Wednesday January 16. And Canavan is looking for an improvement throughout the competition.
"We have very little ball work so far so we would want to see a gradual improvement on that throughout the McKenna Cup," he added.
And the Fermanagh boss is looking forward to welcoming Jim McGuinness' Donegal side for their first competitive game since they claimed the Sam Maguire in September.
"They are away on holiday at the minute and we don't know what team that they will have for the game but it is one to look forward to. It is a high profile start for us which should excite the player and hopefully the Fermanagh supporters will come out in their numbers to cheer the boys on against the All Ireland champions," said Canavan.