Fermanagh manager, Rory Gallagher, who has called a raft of new players into his squad, was delighted that his team picked up a home draw in the Ulster Championship next year. The Erne men will face Donegal in the Ulster quarter final at Brewster Park. It is of course a repeat of the Ulster final of last year that saw Donegal win quite comfortably in the end and Gallagher realises that his players will have it all to do:

“Listen, we were disappointed with how we played in that final. We felt maybe the occasion got to us a little bit, but we must learn from that. We have a longer time to prepare this time round obviously as we know who we are playing. As players and management, we felt that helped us in the first championship match in 2018 but it will be a massive test for us.”

Gallagher does believe however that playing at Brewster Park will be an advantage for the team, who went unbeaten through league and championship at home this past season:

“You always want a home draw and we talked about making Brewster Park a hard place to come and win and we felt that we did that so getting a home draw is a big boost. But every draw in Ulster is hard, and we are in a difficult side of the draw too, but these are the types of teams that we want to be playing against.”

The Fermanagh squad has met to discuss the year ahead and Gallagher is pleased that the “vast majority” of players are back on board. 2018 brought the curtain down on the inter county careers of veterans Ryan McCluskey and Eamon Maguire while goalkeeper, Pat Cadden, has also stepped aside:

“It is pleasing that we have the vast majority of players back this season. There was maybe speculation that the likes of Barry Mulrone and Mickey Jones might call it a day but they are back with us which is great.” explained Gallagher.

“We have called a number of players in and it is pretty open ended in that regard. We just want to get a look at some players and add to the thing a little bit,” he added.

Some of those to have received a call up include Johnny Cassidy of Enniskillen Gaels, Daragh McGurn and Conor McCauley of Belnaleck, Sean Cassidy and Michael Maguire of Ederney, Kevin McDonnell of Irvinestown and Shane McGullion of Derrygonnelly

Others who have had previous experience with the county who are back in the squad include Ciaran Flaherty, who will return to his native Belcoo after a championship winning stint with xxxx in Antrim and Enniskillen Gaels’ pair Richard O’Callaghan, who has returned from two years travelling, and Paddy Reihill. Enda Ferris, who previously played for the county as a forward, is back in the squad as a goalkeeper, having filled the sticks for Ederney this season.

Fermanagh will also meet Donegal in the league this coming season. Gallagher guided his side to promotion from division two in 2018 while Declan Bonner’s Donegal suffered relegation from division one. The Erne manager sees competing at a higher level on a consistent basis as one of the most important aspects of his side’s development:

“You want to play in as high a division as possible. Last season we had three or four games in the league that were much more intense than others. In division two every game will be intense and that is what you want.”

Fermanagh will see a significant step up in class this season. Winning their home games is going to be vital in terms of how their season pans out. But a good league campaign will give rise to confidence entering into the championship and playing in fortress Brewster is always something that seems to bring the best out of the team.