Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher is hoping that his new charges can be in the shake up for promotion when the league reaches the latter stages but he stresses that the only focus at the minute is on their opening game against Wexford this Sunday at Brewster Park.
Relegation to Division Three was a bitter pill to swallow for Fermanagh last season, coming in the manner it did in the closing minutes on the final day against Derry, and Gallagher says that his side want to be playing at the highest standard that they can play.
“We would love to be in the mix,” he said. “The boys spent two years in Division Two and went down in the last minute last year so there would be a lot of disappointment and I think to improve the standards within any county you have to be playing in the higher divisions. Some people would say that there is not a lot of difference between Division Two and Division Three, and that might be right, but we would like to be playing as high a standard as possible. However, at this point and time we are only good enough for Division Three and we just have to see how we go.
“My experience over the last number of years is that the league can be a rollercoaster. 
“It is very competitive, all the divisions have been, and you can be going well one week and poorly the next but we are just looking to our first game, our whole focus is on Wexford, and we are looking to produce a really good performance and then take it from there,” he added.
Division Three looks as if it is going to be a competitive affair in 2018 with Derry, Armagh and Westmeath among those who will be aiming for promotion to Division Two. And Gallagher states that it won’t become clear as to who will be the front runners until everybody has a few games under their belts.
“Westmeath have had very strong players over this last number of years and you have Armagh and Derry who people will see as challengers. Offaly seem to have went fairly well in the O’Byrne Cup but I think you would have a better idea after three games. The first objective for everybody will be to get enough points to make sure they are safe and then towards rounds four, five and six look to push on,” said the Erne boss.
Gallagher also admits that the league fixtures could not really have been any kinder to Fermanagh with four home games, including games against Ulster rivals Armagh and Derry, and no long distance away trips and it is now up to them to try and take advantage of that.
“We feel that the fixtures have fallen fairly kindly for us in that we have four home league games and we have no overnight stays in the league. Obviously, none of those things win you games but we have got to try and capitalise on them,” he said.
First things first though for Fermanagh is a meeting with Wexford and Gallagher expects a tough encounter.
“Traditionally they have always been physical and I think this year is no different. They have a bit of a changing of the guard with the likes of BJ Banville and Ciaran Lyng now gone but they have a lot of young players in and they will take confidence from beating Dublin in the O’Byrne Cup,” he commented.
Gallagher’s side have already had four competitive games under their belts in the McKenna Cup and he expects to see the intensity and performance levels increase this Sunday.
“We did a lot of good things in the McKenna Cup but there were some areas of concern as well. We have got to marry it altogether now and the intensity levels have got to go up.  I thought in all the games we defended quite well and in general we have been defensively sound. The boys would be annoyed that they conceded quite a lot of goals in the league last year and felt it was an area that caused them problems so we have to try and be defensively solid but we also have to build on our attacking play,” he stated.
And hitting the net at the other end as well as keeping the ball out of their own net is something that Gallagher says they have been working on.
“Goals are massive scores now. We have got to have the mentality of making goals happen and there probably hasn’t been enough range of goal scorers over the last number of years so it is something that we are working on.”
In terms of personnel, Gallagher received a big boost with the return to the squad of Derrygonnelly defender Michael Jones.
“We are delighted to have Mickey back on board. He had a long year with Derrygonnelly and was maybe a bit different to the other Derrygonnelly boys in that Conall had been away for a large part of last season, Ryan had missed some of last season with injury and Eamon also had a period out through injury so we felt that they were good to go when we started but Mickey took a longer break and we are pleased to have him back,” he added.
And the manager has little in the way of injury concerns to report ahead of the league opener.
“Ciaran Corrigan is recovering from a bang on the jaw so we probably won’t have him this weekend and Tom Clarke is still on the injury list but other than that we should be alright injury wise,” he said.