Fermanagh minors have been kept busy throughout lockdown by some high quality guest speakers.

The minors had yet to play a game this season when everything shut down and while manager Maurice McLaughlin expected at one stage that no football would take place, he and assistant Mark McHugh felt it was important to keep the players ticking over and progressing.

And now with the confirmation that Fermanagh will face Down in the Ulster Minor Championship in October, McLaughlin is hoping that the work they have put in pays off.

Donegal All Ireland winner McHugh, who was added to the backroom team this year, put together individual programmes for the players and sourced a number of high profile speakers to address the players.

“It did look likely at one point that the boys might not get to play county football this year but they are still county footballers and we wanted to give them the best opportunity to advance to U20s or seniors.

“We decided to work very closely with them on Zoom and Mark put together some very good individual programmes for them to keep their fitness in tune.

“Everybody got on to Strava and we met up every Sunday evening for the last eight weeks and then each Sunday evening there was a guest speaker that Mark had sourced,” said McLaughlin.

Among those who spoke to the players was Tomás O’Se, Ciaran Whelan, Lee Keegan, Ryan McHugh Damian Comer along with Fermanagh player Ryan Jones and manager Ryan McMenamin.

“It was all things that was current and relevant for the lads. The thinking behind it was just to be giving them something to be doing and give them a focus for the weekend but thankfully now we have a date and we are all looking forward to getting back to training collectively and taking a good shot at Down in the championship,” he added.

McLaughlin has nothing but praise for the contribution of McHugh to the set up and believes he will only benefit football in Fermanagh.

“We all know what he has achieved on the field of play with winning Ulsters and an All Ireland and all that stuff but he has shown himself to be a top level coach and his thinking on this and sourcing out the guest speakers was a big part of keeping the lads motivated over the period.

“He is very competitive, he’s a winner and I see it as nothing but a win win situation for Fermanagh football. He is current and relevant and someone the guys have taken to,” commented McLaughlin.

Inter-county squads can not meet up for collective training until September 14 but prior to that the players will be playing for their clubs and McLaughlin intends to take in plenty of the games to keep an eye on the players’ progress.

And then it will be down to full focus for a championship clash with Down.

“I would envisage that we will attend a lot of the U17 league games and I would be hoping that it would finish up before we would get started.

“I think at the moment it is down to finish the first week of October but we hope that might be looked at and it might finish mid September so that we could get a good run at preparation for the championship,” he said.