Fermanagh manager Joe Baldwin was heartbroken to see his charges relegated to Division 3B following a brave display against Armagh in Middletown on Saturday, but he says that pride was his over-riding emotion.

Fermanagh battled hard right through to the end and could have snatched the win at the death, but it was not to be as Armagh won by a single point to confirm the Ernemen’s relegation.

“It is heartbreaking, to be honest, and we are disappointed to have been relegated.

“I thought the boys were heroes and they died with their boots on. They never gave up – the courage that those players showed, they really stood up and we were just so, so unlucky.

“Look, I’m just very, very proud of the boys and I couldn’t have asked any more of the players on Saturday.

“It was just so unfortunate that we are relegated but there may be a wee bit of rebuilding needed next year and maybe Division 3B might be the time to do it,” said Baldwin.

He has spoken throughout his tenure with Fermanagh about the ‘grain of sand’ and having it tipping things in your favour.

Fermanagh showed throughout the league campaign that they are very competitive at this level but the grain tipped against them in the league with three one-point losses.

Baldwin now wants to see his side turn those losses into wins in the championship.

“The league showed that we can more than compete but that grain of sand just didn’t fall in our favour three times.

“We said at the start of the league that we wanted to be competitive and we showed that we are but now we want to win. Competitive is no good any more – we need to turn that grain of sand into our favour,” he added.

Given the injuries within the squad, Baldwin acknowledged that they did well to be so competitive.

“We’d no John Duffy or Tom Keenan; Jimmy Torney broke his collarbone, Brian Teehan and Danann McKeogh were out of the country for Sarturday’s game and we lost Conor McShea this year.

“We are the smallest and you take away that quality, it is very, very hard. Then you look at it in the context of how disappointed the likes of Ryan Bogue, Sean Corrigan, Luca McCusker, Caolan Duffy are this week when we probably shouldn’t even be competing at that level, so it shows how far we have come.”

And a number of injuries during Saturday’s game left the Erne manager down to bare bones.

“In a six-minute spell we lost Sean McKendry to a hamstring, and then we lost Aidan Flanagan to a hamstring. Then we lost Dylan Bannon to a groin strain and Caolan Duffy got hit on the hand. We had five injuries in six minutes and we are on bare bones at the minutes,” he said.

So the key now is to clear those injuries up and give the Nicky Rackard Cup a real lash when it gets under way.

“The key for us now is to get the injuries sorted out and have everybody available for all of the Championship games.

“We have this week off to try and get the bodies right and we have a training camp in Waterford coming up in a week’s time, and I don’t think we will be too far away come the summer.

“We know now that we can definitely compete, come Championship. We didn’t take a big beating of anybody, and anybody who is going to play Fermanagh this summer will know that they are in a game of hurling.

“Even Wicklow – who are flying in the division above us – they will know that they are not going to get anything easy.”