ENNISKILLEN Gaels manager Simon Bradley says they have the utmost respect for their Kilcoo opponents but will not fear them when they play off on Saturday for a place in the Ulster final.
“We definitely respect them,” he said ahead of the game in Armagh. “They’re All-Ireland champions, full of quality players, they’ve won nine championships in the last 10 years, so we respect them.
“As a football team, as a group of players, you can’t go into a game fearing somebody because that will paralyse you, that’s the one thing that we don’t want, we don’t want to be paralysed.
“If we get beat, and we put in a hell of a performance then you accept that but if we go in and freeze you’re just full of regrets and that’s what we want to avoid. We want to see where our best gets us on Saturday night, then we can move forward from that.”
Against Gowna in the provincial quarter-final, Enniskillen could’ve frozen when they went three points down in added time, but they didn’t.
One player in particular who really stood up and was counted was 21-year-old Conor Love. ‘Curly’, as he’s often referred to, showed a calmness beyond his years. This weekend the Gaels’ corner-forward will be a marked man, there’s no doubt about that, and Bradley is hoping he can once again perform.
“Most good corner-forwards are confidence players, they embrace that kind of challenge and I’m just glad that Conor has that type of personality. Conor’s not going to hide, he’ll take it on full face.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how he copes with being well and truly targeted but it’s something he’s going to have to get used to because probably every game he plays for the next seven, eight, nine years, he’s going to have to deal with it. It’s something he’ll get better at dealing with but he’s taking his first steps to dealing with it on Saturday night.”
If Love can rack up the scores at one end, the Gaels will need to watch their backs at the other.
Kilcoo can rip you apart at ease. Against Gowna, Enniskillen were caught twice for goals and Bradley says they’ve been working on that area of their game;
“We looked at the two Gowna goals and there was no analysis needed, the players involved immediately put their hands up and they couldn’t believe they’d done what they’d done to let those two goals in.
“We’ve worked on that, we’ve worked on our defensive setup but we’ve also worked on what we’re going to do when we’ve got the ball. Kilcoo are a threat at goals, they tend not to score a lot from outside the ’45, so I know what’s coming there but they’re still devastatingly good at it.
“We’ll be setting up to nullify those threats but it’s different gravy really. It’s a different level of football for our boys but they’re really buying into the fact that they do have to change the way they approach games and that’s been a real positive for the whole squad.
“The amount of work that’s going on outside of the football pitch, the video analysis, just getting everything right and trying to get everything right on the day is really bringing it home to the players that they’ve really stepped up a level.”
Enniskillen’s leader and captain Richard O’Callaghan has been a real inspiration for Bradley’s side on and off the pitch and the Gaels boss admits his influence has been vital.
“Richie’s voice is the one the boys listen to.
“He leads by example in training, he leads by example in the video room; he’s asking the questions, he’s challenging the players, he’s challenging the management.
“He is the full package when it comes to a captain because he backs it up playing out on the pitch and we’re just lucky to have that kind of character.”
With Brandon Horan looking set to be given the go ahead to play following a hamstring strain against Gowna, the Gaels look set to be without Callum Jones.
The centre half-forward hit 1-2 against Gowna before being red carded in the 56th minute.
On Monday evening an appeal by the Gaels was heard but the Ulster CCC upheld Jones’ one -match suspension so he will miss this weekend’s game.
On Tuesday morning, Bradley confirmed that the “club is looking at further options” with regards to that decision.