By Katrina Brennan
IT wasn’t the lead-up to the league that Ryan Bogue and the Fermanagh hurlers had anticipated, after their manager, Joe Baldwin, suffered a stroke just over a fortnight ago. But thankfully, Joe, aged 51, is on the mend and he’ll likely be in Carrick-on-Shannon watching his team play Leitrim in the first round of the National League on Saturday.
In Joe’s absence over the last few weeks, coaches Daíthí Hand and Peter Galvin from Sligo have taken over the reins as managers as well, as the team prepares for their Division 3B opener.
Team captain Bogue has been really impressed by the impact Hand and Galvin from Sligo have had since joining the Erne set up this season.
“They have just added so much energy to the whole thing. A new voice and just gave everyone so much energy – something different.
“They’re seeing things from a completely different perspective than we have over the last few years and that’s no disrespect to any of the boys that were there before.
“Rory O’Donnell and those boys did a great job, but different eyes and different voices has just brought so much of a buzz to training and everyone is loving it,” says the 34-year-old skipper.
Fermanagh’s pre-season preparation involved three games in the Conor McGurk competition. After a convincing win for the Erne men against Cavan in Breffni Park, they beat Queen’s Belfast at the Dub which was a significant victory.
A semi-final with Donegal followed but the eventual competition winners were too sharp for Fermanagh and won by 1-12 to 2-16 in Brewster Park.
Bogue says they’ve learned a lot from that game in particular;
“Donegal are obviously playing at a higher level than us.
“They were fitter than us that night which we have been working on and they anticipated the game better than us,” admitted the Tempo man.
Just over a week ago, Fermanagh played Derry in a challenge game at a windy Owenbeg. The Oakleafers played a combination of u-20s and seniors and Fermanagh won 2-11 to 0-11.
“We played very well against the wind which we were very happy with. Everyone got a run out and it gave everyone a chance to put their hands up to get a place.”
Bogue made his Fermanagh debut back in 2006 when he was sprung from the bench in a game against Cavan. There’s been many changes in how the game has evolved in that time and this May, Bogue’s life will inevitably change again when he and his wife Aine welcome their first child.
Taking a step back from hurling was never on the cards for Bogue though, who described it as “all I’ve known”.
This weekend, Fermanagh embark on their league journey once more and Bogue is honest about what their expectations are for the season ahead;
“We’re not hiding the fact we want to get back up into Division 3A and back up into Nickey Rackard – that’s our goals this year.
“We felt we shouldn’t have been relegated last year, maybe we deserved to be relegated, but that’s where we want to be, in Division 3A and we want the Nicky Rackard next year.”
Saturday is Fermanagh’s only league game away from home, with the other three games against Warwickshire, Lancashire and Longford scheduled for Brewster Park.
The Erne captain says it’s a game they want to be taking the points from;
“Going to Carrick-on-Shannon, no matter what you’re going to play, hurling, football, ladies football, you’re just going to get a dogfight, so we’ll have to be ready for it.
“We’re going down to win and I feel with the way we’ve prepared over the last couple of weeks and months, I definitely think we can go and get a result.”