Fermanagh Manager Ryan McMenamin watched his side battle their way to a draw against Longford on Saturday at Brewster Park – but he knows that they are going to have to improve if they are to go a step further and beat Offaly to secure a quick return to Division Two.

The Ernemen will travel to Tullamore next Saturday, June 12, to face an Offaly side – who have won all three of their group games – in a promotion play-off.

“It is going to be a very tough test. Any John Maughan team are going to be very, very fit, so they are going to be in good shape.

“He seems to have changed the whole culture down there – they have players committed who wouldn’t usually have committed and they seem to have bought in.

“Offaly have won three games, including beating the Munster champions, and by all accounts it was the best performance under John, to date, so they are going to be going into the game on a high and they will be looking at it as a fantastic chance to get up to Division Two.

“We are just going to have to embrace the challenge and take it on,” said McMenamin, who accepts his side will be the underdogs going into the game.

“I think we will be underdogs and, in fairness, we have been the underdogs in most of our league games so far this year.

“It is going to be tough, travelling down there, but we will go down and give it our best shot.

“We know ourselves it is a one-off game to get up to Division Two and we are in a position now where a lot of people didn’t think we would be in so we want to take it now we are here.”

However, Fermanagh will have to be better defensively than they were last weekend if they are to win in Tullamore.

“We know from the Longford game that we have a hell of a lot of work to do defensively. We thought we let them up the field too easily, and conceded too many easy scores, and it is something we started to work on at training on Monday night.

“On the plus side, though, I think we are capable of hitting that 15- or 16-point total that you need to get to be in contention in games, and last year we weren’t hitting anywhere near that mark,” he added.

Another area that the Erne boss has marked out for improvement is in their discipline, as he says that Offaly will punish any frees given away.

“I think Longford scored ten of their scores from frees, and that’s a massive area for us to look at as Offaly have three or four great free-takers.

“Our discipline is not at the level where it needs to be: we have also had the ball moved forward a couple of times, and that is two or three games in a row.

“We are disappointed with that as management because we spoke about that after the Cavan game, and it has reared its head again, so it is something we will have to get a handle on,” he stated.

A good learning curve

With a lot of young players making their way in the squad, McMenamin says that the three games, to date, have been a good learning curve.

“The three games have been massive for the younger players – they have come in and they have all learnt and taken lessons from the games.

“Even for the Senior players; they have had to play different positions and some of them have had to bide their time and take their chance.

“We said to the boys on Monday night that we will sit down and see where we can take it forward, and see where we can improve.

“We have two weeks now and that will help boys to clear up any injuries and also give boys that haven’t had a chance yet to get that fitness up, and they will have to use these training sessions wisely,” he commented.

On Saturday, McMenamin’s bench played a big part in the win, with Ultan Kelm and Richie O’Callaghan making a postive impact when called upon, and a strong competition for places is something that the Erne Manager hopes to builds.

“You have to build a squad and not everyone can play,” he said.

“I said to the boys after the game that not everyone gets on the 26, and not everyone gets in the 15 – it is about what you do when you get that opportunity.

“The boys gave a great show; Deccy and Breeno came in from the start and did well, and then Richie and Ultan made a great difference when they came on, and that’s what we want.

“We want to look to the bench and know that we have ten great subs to come on, and boys who can do it at this level.

“It takes time to do that, and maybe you don’t see the benefit of it straight away, but hopefully we are moving in the right direction.”

He was also pleased to see his side show character as they dug in when it was needed to get the result.

“These are the sort of games last year that we weren’t getting a result out of and you saw against Cavan the first day we dug in and got the points, and then against Longford we dug in and came up the field to get that score to equalise.

“We are beginning to learn how to dig in during games, although the disappointing aspect is that we didn’t win the game, which we should have done.”