Donnelly out to avoid final day drama

By Katrina Brennan

FERMANAGH will make the 70-odd mile trip to Ardee this Saturday to take on Louth as the Division Two relegation battle really heats up.

Ger Brennan’s side are hot on Fermanagh’s heels, a point and a position behind in seventh spot.

If Fermanagh can get a win and the two points on offer this weekend they will stay up – it’s as simple as that.

“There’s a winner-takes-all type feel, so that in itself motivates everybody within the camp to go and put a performance in,” said Erne manager Kieran Donnelly.

“We have a chance to stay in the division, yes a tough one, but one we would’ve taken at the start of the year.”

On paper, there’s not too much between the two teams in the scoring stakes. Louth slightly shade it having scored an average of 14 points and conceding roughly 15. Fermanagh, on the other hand, have hit an average of 12 points over the course of five rounds and like Louth conceded approximately 15.

Donnelly has watched all Louth’s games and knows that the Wee County will present a big challenge.

“They’re a very, very organised team. This is their second year in Division Two. They’re similar to Cork in their size and athleticism. They’re a very physical team and they’re defensive and very much a counter-attacking team.”

And in their possession, they hold the prolific Sam Mulroy who has already hit 2-20 in the league.

Two years ago in Brewster Park, Mulroy notched 1-6 as Mickey Harte’s Louth went on to beat Fermanagh and ultimately gain promotion. So Donnelly knows the danger he presents.

“He is key for them, he is their focal point, as is Ryan Burns off him – he’s a very, very good forward. But, Sam Mulroy is dangerous from all over the pitch, especially from free kicks – that’s the big thing with him.

“He has distance and is very accurate with his free kicks, so we’re going to have to be very disciplined on our tackling.”

The last meeting saw Louth come away from Enniskillen with a 2-12 to 0-14 victory and since then their team has remained pretty much the same, gaining more experience all the time.

They started the league with a very impressive performance against Armagh in the Athletic Grounds, losing by just a point, and followed that with a win over Cork. Meath got the better of them in Navan and despite hitting Cavan for three goals, they fell short by a point again.

Their last outing was against Donegal which they lost 1-17 to 0-15 in Ballyshannon but Donnelly knows their seventh placed position in the table is not reflective of how they’ve been playing.

“They’re probably unlucky to be sitting on just two points.

“They’re very much a running team and an intricate team and they have scored goals against the likes of Cavan, so they have that bit of potency up front.

“The boys are very aware of their strengths, the fact we’ve played them before, and we’ve done a lot of work this week on video work.”

Fermanagh will be without goalkeeper Sean McNally for the remainder of the league after he ruptured ligaments against Cork. It’s a serious injury that will rule the Teemore man out for up to eight weeks.

Ross Bogue will again be wearing the number one jersey and Donnelly has drafted in Lisnaskea goalkeeper Ethan McCaffrey as the number two ‘keeper.

Jonny Cassidy continues on the road to full fitness and he will once again be in the matchday squad, but whether the Enniskillen man is fit enough to be called upon remains to be seen.

Ryan Lyons is still out of contention following a soft tissue injury, which is a big loss to Fermanagh, but there’s positive news in that Aidan Breen has made a full recovery from a broken bone in his foot.

Last Friday evening, in a challenge match with Sligo in Brewster Park, Donnelly tried and tested players outside the starting 15 and that included Conor Love who got some vital game-time in his legs.

“Conor Love is an exceptional talent,” said Donnelly. “He has just been so unlucky, he’s had a couple of setbacks. I’m looking forward to him getting a run of games behind him and training, because he has looked sharp these last few sessions.”

With two rounds of the league remaining, Donnelly knows that a win is crucial this weekend so that they can avoid having to go to Cavan to get a result.

“You really don’t want to be going to Breffni searching for two points. Cavan are on a high as well. All in all, two tough away games to finish,” acknowledged the Erne boss.

“The players want to stay in Division Two, they know it’s a good division to be in and they are only going to improve. They won’t need motivated – you don’t have to motivate the Cullens (Lee and Che) of this world and Decky (McCusker) the captain – those senior players – they’re county footballers for a reason; they are driven and they’re self-motivated.”

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