Four games in the McKenna Cup, with three against Division One teams should be the perfect preparation for the National League reveals Fermanagh defender Declan McCusker. The Ederney man was reflecting after his side lost out by four points to Tyrone in the semi-final at Brewster Park on Sunday.
The game was a tough dogged affair with the sides accounting for 12 points between them over the course of the hour with a heavy sod and lashing rain a feature of the contest.
“It was very difficult conditions and very heavy. It was a very physical game too which is good to be honest. Tyrone are one of the top sides in the country and they are of course a big physical test so it was good for us to experience that,” McCusker revealed.
The wing half back was part of a defence that conceded only eight points over the course of the 70 plus minutes and there has clearly been a lot of work put in on the training field over recent months.
“We were pleased with how we set up and the shape that we had. We know that the way Tyrone play they live off turnovers. They were able to do that to us a few times but I think overall, we did well defensively. They have put up some big scores in the McKenna Cup so we were pleased with how we kept them to just eight scores,” McCusker stated before adding that the Red Hands were tough to penetrate,
“They were very hard to break down at the other end but coming up against the likes of Tyrone will only help us,” McCusker added.
It seems clear that Fermanagh are working on every detail of their game with the players clear that small margins are the key when it comes to beating the better teams in the country.
“It can be something as simple as a bad fist pass. I had one in the first half that led to a point. The really good teams will punish you for all those little mistakes and it is about cutting them out and doing everything as well as possible.”
Looking forward to the league McCusker knows that Division Three represents something of a minefield with a host of teams fancying their chances of promotion.
“We have to set our own standards. If we do that then we should be able to win games. But even in winning games we have to look at everything and scrutinise our mistakes and look at where we can improve. Division Three is not going to be easy and we have to be really focused for every single game,” he explained before turning his attention to some of the teams that Fermanagh will face when league action gets underway.
“You have Derry and Armagh who are going to be tight games. Then there is Westmeath and Longford, who drew with Meath today (Sunday), so there are going to be difficult games every week and I definitely think there is less of a gap between Division Two and Three than there is between Division One and Two.”
Reflecting on the McKenna Cup, McCusker reveals that there was a sense of satisfaction among the squad with the overall campaign: “I think it was important to get the extra game and it was important to test ourselves against really top teams. And we got to put into play some of the things we have been working on in training so from that point of view it is absolutely vital for the league.”