Fermanagh will get the new season underway next Wednesday night when the All Ireland champions Donegal visit Brewster Park for the opening round game in the Power NI Dr. McKenna Cup (7.30pm).
Fermanagh manager Peter Canavan is moving into his second year in charge of the side, and after a late start following his late appointment last time around, he will be hoping to build on last season and hit the ground running when the National League commences at the start of February with a tough game against Wicklow in Aughrim.
Promotion out of Division Four was a success last season but a much tougher Division Three lies ahead this time around and while Canavan has stated that he will be looking to progress in the McKenna Cup, the key will be to have a settled and fully prepared team by the time the league rolls around.
The Fermanagh boss will also use the McKenna Cup to run his eye over a number of new faces that he has called up into his preliminary squad and the games will be an excellent opportunity for those players to put down a marker before the management team review the squad ahead of the National League campaign.
Among those who have been named in the preliminary squad are four of the victorious St. Michael's MacRory Cup winning squad, twins Lee and Che Cullen, Niall Shannon and Ryan Hyde while the likes of Tempo pair Niall McElroy and Aidan Breen as well as St. Joseph's Johnny Irvine, Enniskillen's Conor McAleer and Ruairi Corrigan of Kinawley have also been selected. The squad is also boosted by the return of Devenish defender Marty O'Brien while Ryan McCluskey has recovered from the head injury that ruled him out of last season's championship to once again captain the side.
Goalkeeper Ronan Gallagher will miss out after sustaining a serious shoulder injury but the experienced Chris Breen and Chris Snow give Canavan plenty of options between the sticks while the likes of Shane Lyons, Niall Bogue, James Sherry and Eamon Maguire are among those providing an abundance of experience in the squad.
Fermanagh played their first challenge game of the season last Friday and came away with a five point victory over Derry at Dunmoyle. Canavan took the opportunity to run his eye over 26 players over the course of the contest and will have been pleased with the overall performance as his side finished up 0-09 to 0-04 winners despite the difficult conditions.
Fermanagh had began the game brightly as they rattled over the opening three points of the encounter through Kane Connor, Paul Ward and Tomas Corrigan.
However, Derry responded with three points of their own in the shape of two Ryan Bell frees and a Barry McGoldrick point from play but two late points from wing half back Declan McCusker and Tommy McElroy left Fermanagh 0-05 to 0-03 ahead at the break.
Derry registered the first point of the second half through Enda Lynn but this was to be their last score of the game as Fermanagh pushed on for the victory. Sean Quigley made a good impact on his introduction, knocking over a point from play and one from a free while Tommy McElroy and Paul Ward banged over their second points to leave it 0-09 to 0-04. The likes of the Cullen twins and Aidan Breen all faired well when introduced and they will be hoping to follow that up if given the chance in the McKenna Cup.
The opening game should see a large crowd at Brewster Park as Donegal play their first game since winning the All Ireland title in September. While Donegal, with former Fermanagh player Rory Gallagher as assistant manager, are unlikely to line out too many of their All Ireland winning side, it should prove a good test for Fermanagh before they then face St. Mary's four days later, also at Brewster Park.
And the group stage will conclude with a meeting with a familiar face as former manager Malachy O'Rourke and his new county, Monaghan, host Fermanagh in Inniskeen.