Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher believes his side should relish the challenge that Division Two will pose this year.

Having secured promotion from Division Three last year, Fermanagh will face a higher quality of opposition in what looks to be an extremely competitive league in the likes of Donegal, Kildare and Cork but it is one for them to look forward to according to Gallagher.

“Donegal and Kildare were in the Super 8s last year, Armagh were in the quarter final the year before and you have the likes of Tipperary who were in an All Ireland semi-final not so long ago. You also have Clare who are going for their fourth successive year in Division Two while Meath are a traditional county so there are a lot of established counties who are itching to get into Division One.

“From our point of view though, we are really looking forward to it. Don’t get me wrong, it is a tougher league, but it is a much more enjoyable level of opposition to be pitting yourself against.

“I feel the higher standard of opposition is a great challenge, it’s more exciting to be playing teams who would see themselves as being top tier teams,” he said.

Given the difficulty of the division, Gallagher states that the first goal has to be survival and retaining their status in Division Two although he stresses that they will only be taking it one game at a time.

“We are coming up from Division Three so that’s the first target but you don’t even speak about these things to the players. We are focused on the first game against Cork and you move on then on a week by week basis,” he said.

He knows though the level that Fermanagh will have to get to if they are to compete in the division.

“At the end of the day we beat Monaghan last year who drew with Kerry and beat Galway and Kildare in the championship. That’s the level we got to, now we have got to get to that level earlier in the year and on a consistent basis but it is something for the players to embrace.”

A win against Cork at Brewster Park on Sunday would be the perfect start for Fermanagh with that followed by an away game against Tipperary and a home game against Kildare.

“To win that first league game helps to gather momentum but you break it down into mini stages and we have a three week run to start with and it is about trying to have better performances throughout the three and have a level of points that you are happy with,” he added.

So, what does the Fermanagh boss expect from the Rebels on Sunday?

“I would expect a huge amount of athleticism with them. I came across them an awful lot with Donegal in the league and championship and they always have big men. I think they are probably at a slight crossroads, they have come out with a five year plan and I would say they are looking at things. They would have been very orthodox all along when other teams have maybe changed and there is a possibility they may change that approach. The one thing they have always had though is lovely natural footballers but we will focus on our own performance,” he stated.

Fermanagh will have to make the most of home advantage if they are to succeed in Division Two and Gallagher is keen to continue their good run at Brewster Park.

“We thoroughly enjoyed playing in it last year and we are fortunate in the long term to have another home draw in the championship. We have been difficult to beat in it, even when we are not at our best we are able to grind out victories in it.”

Gallagher will know that it will be crucial that Fermanagh are economic with their chances which was not always the case last year and as every manager will acknowledge, he sees plenty of room for improvement in all areas. He is though happy with how preparations have gone to date.

“Decision making and the quality of our finishing are things we have to work on but there are loads of factors we have to work on and every area of our game needs to be improved but I’m happy that since we really knuckled down at the start of January the boys have responded really well,” he said.

On the injury front, Gallagher says that most of those who were on the treatment table are now approaching full fitness and expects to have the bulk of his squad available for Sunday.

“We are not badly off with injuries. James McMahon and Declan McCusker are back, Sean (Quigley) is back in full training and Che (Cullen) will be back having missed the McKenna Cup. Barry Mulrone is working his way back, Paul McCusker will be touch and go but if he’s not available for this one he will be for the next one and Ruairi Corrigan’s the same but we are not going to rush people back, it is a long year and we want them fit,” he said.

And Gallagher is just looking forward now to the action getting underway.

“We can’t wait now to get out as it has been a long time since the Kildare game. The McKenna Cup is great but this has a real competitive edge and I’m just looking for the boys to bring a huge hunger and a savage intensity,” he stated.