After the hammering by Derry at Owenbeg, things looked a little bleak for Fermanagh. This column was thinking things were bleaker than bleak, if truth be told.

And, in the spirit of honesty, it should be admitted that we thought the victory over Cavan was a little surprising too.

The performance that day was full of promise with generous portions of hard work and good play added in for good measure. The trip to Derry, in contrast, delivered the mother and father of all ‘back down to earth’ lessons and we were left thinking if the early optimism was about to turn into the practicalities of a relegation dogfight.

The day before the Longford game, when asking a Fermanagh player if they would gain a promotion play-off berth, there was a glimmer of hope offered.

That glimmer came in the confidence of the answer. “Back us” came the answer. Simple as that. It was good to hear, but the look in the eye was even better to see.

Normally after a mauling there is an apprehension that can sweep through a squad. That wasn’t on show here – on the contrary. There was a defiance in that player and an unspoken assertion that points had to be proved. Indeed, it seemed that honour had to be defended and promotion had to be gained.

Longford are a good football team. They know what they are at, and they have some decent forwards.

With Derry beating Cavan it meant that a draw was needed and in the end, a draw was delivered.And it was delivered despite the fact that for large parts of the second half, it looked like Longford would return south with the two points.

So, looking at the three league games, to date, one has to say that it has been a case of a job well done.

Let’s be honest – with the turnover of players and lopsided nature of the Division Three North, Fermanagh fans would have bitten your hand off for a play-off promotion game. This column certainly would have.

As an aside, and before I return to our own fair county, isn’t it amazing that Tipperary and Cavan, two teams who won provincial championships last year, are one game away from Division Four?

We must wonder what all those people who argue for a tiered championship and bemoan the mythical chasm that exists in inter-county football will think about that.

This column suspects they will sidestep such inconvenient truths and instead push on with their agenda of elitism. Ah well. C’est la vie.

But we digress – back to Fermanagh and the job well done; so far.

The question now is what to expect and, indeed, hope for, moving forward.

Well, to begin with, Offaly are a serious challenge. Three wins from three and with home advantage they will be rightly installed as favourites.

However, there is no need to fear the midlanders. Quite the opposite; with the spectra of relegation removed, we can perhaps play with more freedom.

To be fair to Ryan McMenamin, he has been letting these boys play and has been asking them to be more expansive.

With the pressure lifted, we can hope that we will see even more of this against Offaly. There has been lots of pace out of defence and men off the shoulder and, up top, Sean Quigley has been the most impressive he has ever been in his distinguished career, in this column’s opinion.

Looking lean and hungry, Quigley is not only kicking points for fun, he is also winning ball in front of his direct marker and is offering a real release valve for players out the field. He has also emerged as real leader for the team.

What Quigley and Fermanagh need is a consistent partner in crime. Looking ahead to the championship clash with Monaghan, the Roslea sharpshooter cannot be the only outlet in the full forward line.

If that is the case, Monaghan will shut down the threat. The man marking will be tighter for a start, and any sweeper the Farneymen employ will be able to concentrate his efforts on stopping the supply.

A second inside forward who wins the ball and poses a threat will be needed if Fermanagh are to pick up any more wins this season.

Needs more time

Conor Love has got some much needed game time under his belt, but the Enniskillen Gaels player needs more time to develop into the player he can be.

In normal times and with a normal league campaign, Love would have had four to five games under his belt before championship action. That won’t be the case this time around.

Ciaran Corrigan, although perhaps not an out and out inside forward, has shown that he has the ability to carry a cut and thrust inside.

McMenamin will have to make a call, and with only one game to go before the Championship clash, he should look to develop some chemistry in that full forward line against Offaly.

Without the ball there has been one area where Fermanagh has struggled, and that has been stopping the runners and picking up runners from deep. When the opposition move the ball quickly through the hands with hard running, we have looked vulnerable.

Again, looking ahead to the Monaghan game, we will be facing one of the very best teams when it comes to runners from deep. In their three games in the league, time and again they caused consternation for defences with this tactic.

Our defensive system needs tightening in this regard. We have time to tighten. And that begins with a trip to Offaly and a chance to gain promotion to Division Two, which would be a remarkable achievement.

It is lovely to be pleasantly surprised. Let’s hope for a few more surprises before the year is out ...