Fermanagh Ladies manager James Daly feels that preparations are going well for their Lidl NFL Division Four campaign which begins on Sunday February 5 with an away game against Antrim.

Fermanagh have played a number of challenge games in recent weeks and Daly believes that these have been beneficial for the squad and management.

“Preparations have been going well. We played four matches and although we lost three of them, they were to Cavan, Tyrone and Monaghan who are all Intermediate or Senior teams and we beat Leitrim who are an Intermediate team even though they are in Division Four.

“For the most part it has been good. We have a lot of the girls back that stayed away last year. We have haven’t seen Lisa Maguire yet as she has been injured and we are only getting Roisin O’Reilly back as she has been injured and we are just bedding her in. She played a half a game on Friday night and then the full game against Monaghan so that is pleasing,” said Daly.

One player who didn’t return is goalkeeper Shauna Murphy while star forward Eimear Smyth has not yet returned to training although Daly is hopeful of having the Derrygonnelly player on board.

“We don’t have Eimear Smyth in yet, she is working and living in Dublin, but we are hoping to get her in somewhere along the way.

“I spoke with Shauna this week but she is playing soccer with Cliftonville and is concentrating on that,” he said.

With Murphy not available, Daly has called up Devenish’s Rachel Monaghan as a goalkeeping option and has been pleased with what he has seen.

“Rachel was an outfield player for them but towards the end of last season Devenish had no goalkeeper and she went into goals and done really well. We have brought her in and she has done really well,” he said.

Daly also has a number of injury concerns ahead of the commencement of the league but he believes that the stronger squad he has available to him should allow him to cope with those.

“We have three shoulder injuries; Blaithin Bogue, Shannon McQuade and Ash Maguire have all hurt their shoulder but we have a much stronger squad than we did last year,” he added.

Fermanagh competed well despite a number of players unavailable last year and Daly is now hoping that they can go on and lift silverware this year.

“There was a real backs to the wall attitude last year and everybody bought into it. The atmosphere was great and although we never won anything there was only one game more that we could have played, that was the league final. We played the Ulster final, the All Ireland final and the All Ireland final replay and it is time now to go and win something.

“We have a good strong squad, we have good players with most players back on board so I would like to think that we will challenge,” he commented.

Daly has also been keen to add to his management team. He has already brought in Connor McGovern and is keeping his options open for further additions.

“We still have a few irons in the fire in that regard. We brought in Connor McGovern who will do video analysis and goalkeeping coach and I’m delighted to have him in and he has been a breath of fresh air.”

The focus for now though is on the league and that opener against Antrim, who defeated Fermanagh in the All Ireland Junior final last year.

“It will be a big goal for Antrim this year to try and get out of Division Four and we have had a lot of big games with them over last year alone so it will another big game. We are just working on getting fitness levels up in the next few weeks and hopefully get a good start in the league,” he said.