By Katrina Brennan
THE celebrations were cut shorter than expected at the players’ bequest and it was back to training last Wednesday night for the Gaels.
With their first Fermanagh senior championship in 16 years secured, the Ulster Club Championship is somewhat unknown territory for this group of players. For their manager, Simon Bradley on the other hand, he’ll be hoping he can impart all his experience.
Bradley has played in seven Ulster club campaigns with the Gaels and in 2006 he managed Enniskillen but they were beaten by Errigal Ciaran in the first round.
This young Gaels team will get their first taste of what Bradley describes as an “elite competition” on Saturday evening and the Enniskillen boss can’t overstate what a huge step up in class the Ulster premier competition is;
“It’s massively different, even in terms of the psychological preparation for it. You’re in an elite competition and it is an elite competition. Standards go up and consequences of making mistakes are highlighted even more.
“It becomes a more physical game because the Ulster Club Championship prides itself on being a more physical contest, so you have to be ready for that physicality in the game as well,” claims Bradley.
Gowna has physicality in abundance. In their midfield sector Cavan county player Conor Brady and Ryan Donohoe provide a formidable partnership. They are a pacy team with plenty of scoring outlets. Another of the current Cavan county players, Cian Madden, plays as an attacking defender and he will punish the Gaels if they gift Gowna frees.
They’ve plenty of experience in their ranks too. Four of the current panel was on the 2002 side that won county honours. Goalkeeper Ronan Bannon, former county star Mark McKeever, Raymond Keogh and Gerard Pierson.
Bradley has been doing his homework on the Cavan champions and knows what lies in store;
“We’ve got a good bit of video on them. With so many games now being taped and you can go into the various county GAA TV, so yeah, we’ve as much information on them as they’ll have on us,” he quips.
“They’re a running team, physically big. Strong, play quite aggressive football. We’ll be expecting a tough game now. They’ve a nice blend of three or four lads there that are older, a couple of ex-county players as well, that sort of age group.
“It’s going to be a tough nut to crack, thankfully we have them at home which gives us a bit of an advantage.”
With rain forecast for much of the rest of this week, Brewster Park will undoubtedly be heavy underfoot. The weather will also play a part in how open and free-scoring the game is, suggests Bradley;
“Gowna have been involved in all sorts of matches, like ourselves. High scoring games, low scoring games but they’ve all been weather dependent. The pitch is going to be very heavy so I think scores are going to be hard enough come by.
“I think both teams will want to stay in the game and not let one team get five, six points up, it would be very hard to come back from that type of deficit. So, it could be cagey enough at the start but I’d expect it to be Ulster club football too, so it’ll be stand up and be counted time for our lads.”
This Gaels team has ten players who won an Ulster Minor Club Championship in 2018, now it’s the next level and while Bradley acknowledges that “there’s no way you can prepare teams for it, you have to experience it”, he believes.
“Enniskillen will be a better team for playing in this competition; whether it’s winning one game or more.