Fermanagh hurlers will face Cavan, Leitrim and Louth in their NHL Division 3B campaign which will commence on May 16 with a trip to Breffni Park.

A week later Fermanagh will host Leitrim at Brewster Park before they conclude with an away game against Louth on June 6.

Fermanagh manager Joe Baldwin is looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead in the league.

“We have Cavan and we would know everything about them by now and it is a game that we will be targeting to get off to a good start,” said Baldwin.

“Next up is Leitrim and that will be another difficult game before we finish against Louth. I think that game will be the perfect one for us to see if we are improving and progressing as they beat us in the Lory Meagher Cup final last year. I think these are some great fixtures for the lads to look forward to and it is a good opportunity for us,” he added.

However, the manager admits that while they want to do well in the league, it will all be about hitting the ground running when the championship gets underway.

“Last year, as a new management team, we used the league to get to know the players, and with nine new faces coming in this year it is the same again. We want to be competitive in the league but it is a stepping stone towards the championship and we want to give everybody game time because it is a shortened season so we won’t be able to play many challenge games.

“Look, you want to try and win the league but at the same time hurling is about championship and because the season is condensed we want to be ready for championship and hit the ground running then.”

Among the nine new faces is a return to the squad for the experienced Ryan Bogue after a spell away in Australia and Baldwin feels that he will be a massive addition to the squad to go along with the likes of Barney McAuley, Kevin McGarry and Ruairi Bannon who have also been added.

“We have brought a number of players in and now we have Ryan Bogue back from Australia and he is back in the squad. He is going to be a huge addition to us, he is in good shape, he is a top class hurler and is a natural leader. He is someone that we will look to drive the thing on a bit more so Ryan being back can only be good for us,” said Baldwin.

Indeed, Baldwin feels that he now has plenty of competition throughout the squad which was something he wanted to build when he took over.

“We now have big decisions to make with regards the squad. Even on match days, you can only have 26 stripped out while we are currently working with about 37 players. We want to build a competitive squad and not just a starting 15. We need real strength in depth and that is something that we wanted to do from day one when we came in,” he added.

The squad will return to collective training next week and the management have been busy in recent weeks trying to sort out training venues.

“We have been at that probably for about a month or so because with Lissan being out of action at the minute we have to go cap in hand to clubs. We are acutely aware that Fermanagh is a football county but in the run up to the final some of the clubs really stepped up and gave us their support. It has been the same this year, some of the clubs have responded quite well and we have the venues and all booked and we are raring to go,” he said.

And Baldwin says the players are excited about getting back out on the pitch together.

“We just can’t wait,” he said. “Hurling is a summer time game and we are into the good evenings, the short grass and the quick ball. Just to get back out and get competitive hurling again is great; it is something that you just relish and live for,” he said.