Donnelly hoping Fermanagh can nullify key Laois threats

By Katrina Brennan

THE ‘carrot’ dangling before Fermanagh this Saturday is a home quarter-final and a week’s rest if they can overcome Laois, in Longford, and top the group.

That’s a pretty tasty outcome and Fermanagh manager, Kieran Donnelly knows it.

He also knows they’ll have to produce a top performance to beat Justin McNulty’s men – a team that ended Fermanagh’s hopes at the preliminary quarter-final stage last year;

“We’re very aware of their strengths. They are a traditional team and they’re a team that likes to play a lot of direct football. Down through their history, I would say they’ve always had two or three really top-class forwards and that hasn’t changed.

“They have a real potency in front of goals. (Evan) O’Carroll, (Paul) Kingston and (Mark) Barry are three really good forwards and they’ve racked up big scores all year in their championship matches and it’s something we have to be very much on.

“The key focus is to nullify their key players. They like to hit a lot of direct ball inside because they have size. We very much know we can’t take them for granted whatsoever.”

Last June when the sides met in Brewster Park, Fermanagh crashed out of the competition, somewhat unexpectedly. Ryan Jones was red-carded in the 33rd minute and a second half goal for O’Carroll was the story of the game as the men from Laois marched on and Fermanagh were left to lick their wounds.

Fermanagh owe them one in some respects and one thing is for sure, there’ll be no complacency from Donnelly’s camp;

“Last year is a reminder of what they can do. We felt last year was a very frustrating game, we played most of the game with a man down and nearly came back to win the game and ended up losing it with them getting a goal. And that sort of sums up what Laois are like.

“They have a lot of ‘fires’ to put out, but again, if we play to our strengths we are very much capable of doing that.”

Fermanagh will be without the influential Conor McGee for the rest of the season after the Ederney man damaged his ACL in the Wicklow game. He’s a huge loss to both his club and county, said Donnelly;

“I can’t speak highly enough of him in terms of his attitude and the way he has come in this year. He has probably been one of our best players.

“I was devastated for him when I heard the news because he is such a committed player and he’s a real team player as well. He’s a massive loss for us.”

Donnelly has often been worse off in terms of players to spring from the bench though. The return of Johnny Cassidy and Darragh McGurn are two major pluses. Conor Love has also been a real impact sub in recent games having shrugged off a hamstring injury earlier in the season.

Donnelly believes this is a real strength of the team going forward;

“Our subs have been a major factor in us going on and winning the games and it just shows that we have a bit of depth now with certain players back. We’re going to need everybody over the next three or four weeks.

“Conor (Love) has been excellent at training, as has Darragh McGurn. They did really well when they came on (against Carlow), as did Ronan McCaffrey – so there’s three players really pushing, so that gives a real good element of competition – that nobody can feel safe with their jersey and that’s the key message and it’s a healthy one.”

Fermanagh will hope to improve their shooting and some wayward passes that resulted in turnovers against Carlow. It’s something they’re always striving to get better at, said the Brookeborough man;

“We did feel we started well against Carlow but we just weren’t putting the scores away.

“That’s something we’re always working on. We had got a good mix against Wicklow and we moved the ball well in the second half and we’re just looking to create that again. We’re a mobile team and we very much know we’re a team, and we just need to play as a team and that is the key message with us.

“The way the game has evolved, defences are so well structured that it has to be a case of always taking the better pass and giving it to the man in the best position. I think if we move the ball about enough we’ll create good chances.”

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW