Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath is looking positively ahead to Saturday week’s Ulster Championship encounter against a highly fancied Monaghan.
The Ernemen are set to be without up to half of the outfield players who started the game against Mayo last summer due to retirements, injuries and players on their travels.
And McGrath is not expecting any of his injured players, namely Ryan Jones, Declan McCusker, Ruairi Corrigan and Eoin McManus, to recover in time for the game, stating “the situation is still the same and won’t improve.”
However, the Fermanagh boss stresses that they won’t let any of that get them down. This is championship and the goal remains the same - getting a big performance and a result.
“Going back to last year against Mayo, of the 14 outfield players there will be six not playing which is nearly half your outfield players. You then add the likes of James McMahon who has left the panel and Niall Cassidy, who has retired, who both came on that day.
“We have taken quite a few hits there is no doubt about that but you can’t sit and moan and groan. If I’m asked about it I give the facts but those facts aren’t wearing us down, they aren’t creating a sense of apprehension or despair, far from it. We have trained very hard and the whole aim is to get a big performance in Clones,” he said.
McGrath says that a number of other players are also carrying slight niggles but will be fit and raring to go on Saturday week.
“A couple of people have bits and pieces of niggles; Barry Mulrone has a hip problem after getting a knock, Eoin Donnelly is being careful with his hamstring over this last couple of weeks, Eddie Courtney has a bit of bother with his groin and didn’t play for his club last Friday. They are pre-cautionary to the extent that they are not doing full training but I would like to think that none of that would rule any of them out and at this stage they should be good to go,” he said.
Fermanagh will travel to Clones as big underdogs with Malachy O’Rourke’s Monaghan side going into the game on the back of a strong Division One campaign while Fermanagh’s league programme ended with relegation to Division Three.
Indeed, Monaghan have won two of the last five Ulster titles while Fermanagh are still waiting on their first.
So how does McGrath convince his squad that they are capable of going to Clones and turning the Farneymen over?
“I think team management has to lead and has to shine the light into dark places but at the end of the day a lot of that is down to the players belief in themselves as county players, both individually and collectively. I have no doubt of the potential within this group, I have no doubt of the character or the ability of this group. We have got some really top class footballers and the players will know that since we have convened in November last year that a lot of hard work has been done and a lot of very good, quality work has been done. They have come through a tough league campaign which was heartbreaking on the last day but what doesn’t kill you makes you harder and more resilient and we are still battling.
Look, championship football in Ulster is a tough, unforgiving business no matter who you are playing and if you don’t have a tough, unforgiving mentality as an individual player and as a collective group going in then you are in the wrong place.”