Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher is anticipating a step up in opposition over the next week when his side will complete their McKenna Cup group stage with games against Derry at Brewster Park on Sunday and Tyrone in Omagh on Wednesday night.

Fermanagh opened their McKenna Cup campaign with a draw against UUJ in Derrygonnelly almost three weeks ago and Gallagher says that they are looking forward now to the next two games.

“The UUJ game was very early on when traditionally you might have played a challenge game so it’s just a starting point for us and it was a reasonably competitive game. With Derry and Tyrone now I suppose we can get a bit more excited about those games and look forward to a better quality of opposition,” he stated.

First up of the two is the Oak Leaf men on Sunday and Gallagher feels that this is going to be a good examination for his side.

“I don’t think anybody really views Derry as a Division Four team. They have always had a lot of good footballers and it is the first year in a number of years that they have the Slaughtneil boys so you would expect to see a lot of them and it is going to be a good test,” he said.

And then it will be on to a clash with the Red Hands next Wednesday night under the lights in Healy Park. Tyrone opened their account with a win over Derry and Gallagher acknowledges that with the talent at Mickey Harte’s disposal, whatever team they put out is going to be strong.

“Obviously Tyrone at this time of year they have traditionally been the benchmark in Ulster, they have been so strong and we all know that they probably have more players capable of playing county football than most other counties so whatever side they put out will be very competitive.”

The Fermanagh manager has brought a number of new faces into his squad for the forthcoming season and he says that he is satisfied with the work that has been done to date.

“We are happy to get to this point. We have given the boys a bit more of a break, they have worked hard but the next three to four weeks will say a lot about how we are fixed going into the opening league game against Cork. At Christmas time you always have distractions so it is good to get back and focus on the games and the training,” he explained.

Declan McCusker is ruled out of the next couple of games as he is away on honeymoon but Gallagher is hoping to get a few others back on to the pitch.

“Decky McCusker won’t be available as he is away on honeymoon but we will hope to have James McMahon and Jack McCann back available, they were carrying injuries. We also hope to get the likes of Paul McCusker and Barry Mulrone who were carrying wee knocks back in. We will see what we have available but thankfully most of them are coming back to full fitness and we’ll know closer to the time.”

The main focus for the Fermanagh manager at this stage is that league opener against the Rebels in Brewster Park in what looks to be a highly competitive Division Two.

“It is a much more competitive fixture schedule than we had last year going into Division Three and that’s the reality of it but in order for us to progress we feel that’s where we need to be playing and operating at. That’s the challenge now, to see how we can accumulate enough points to hopefully stay in the division. We’ll just take it game by game and we’ll do everything we can to be ready for the Cork game,” said Gallagher.

A difficult Division Two campaign is compounded by the uncertainty of whether the games will be played with some or all of the proposed rule changes in place and Gallagher admits that they haven’t really been focusing on the rule changes in training.

“We don’t really train in them, we are aware of them, but we are just not sure. I’d imagine for most inter-county squads, it leaves your training a wee bit less enjoyable than it would have been this time last year because you are into the unknown.

“The three hand-pass rule is one that is very restrictive and while we keep an eye on it we wouldn’t hugely focus on it. We are of the opinion that it is one that doesn’t make sense to most people that are involved in the game and talk about it, it could go so there is not a lot of point in wasting a lot of energy on it. Likewise the attacking mark, it is very difficult in training because it is hard to judge when a kick goes 20 metres. We said we would give them a chance but we are not enjoying the period of playing under the rules,” he said.