By Mark McGoldrick
FERMANAGH ladies manager James Daly says there is a ‘good mood’ in the Erne camp as they kick off their Ulster Junior Football Championship campaign on Sunday against Down.
It’ll be a big step up for Daly’s side when they take on the Mourne ladies who finished fourth in Division 3, a level above Fermanagh.
But the Erne ladies’ manager isn’t getting too caught up on the opposition, ahead of the Ulster opener.
“It’s going to be a massive game (against Down),” said Daly, who added, “but we’ve watched them and researched them and we know exactly who their best players are and what their strengths are.
“But our focus is on executing our own game plan and getting it right on our side of the ball. There’s a good buzz and we’re all looking forward to it,” said the Fermanagh manager.
It’s been a decent start to the season so far for Daly and his players. The Erne ladies won three games in their Division 4 league group, qualifying for the league semi-final, but they lost out to Leitrim after extra time.
While still disappointed at losing that semi, the Dromintee man says his team learned a lot from the defeat.
“We had our chances and in the last four or five minutes, we were up by a point, but going into injury time we just couldn’t clear our lines,” recalled Daly, “but we’ve worked on that now, we’ve done a lot of work since that Leitrim game and we’re in a good place.”
A few days out from the game, Daly’s reporting that he has a ‘clean bill of health’, with no injury concerns.
With the likes of captain Shannan McQuaid, Molly McGloin, Courteney Murphy, Roísín O’Reilly, the Maguire sisters, Danielle and Lisa, and the hugely talented Bláithín Bogue all available for the game, the Erne boss feels that his team have plenty of experience to go toe-to-toe against the best in the province.
“We’ve a few selection headaches,” said Daly, “this year we’ve got some good depth all over the field and there’s been a good battle. It’s been very fiesty at training as everyone is fighting for a starting jersey.
“We still only have a squad of 24, as some girls that have’t got game time have gone back to their clubs, but every one of those girls on the 24 (playing squad) could start the game on Sunday, and that’s more than I could ask for.”
Sunday’s game is a home fixture for Fermanagh, with the match scheduled to be played in Tempo. Daly is ‘a bit disappointed’ with the proposed venue for the Ulster Championship.
“We’ve only played one game there,” said the Erne boss. “I would rather have played where we are more familiar, but none of the other pitches, like Brewster Park, or Donagh where we’ve played a lot, are available. That is a bit frustrating.”
And while he acknowledges that his players ‘want to win’ the match, Daly is playing the long game, with his focus on a decent run in the provincial and All-Ireland series.
“Like Antrim last year, we could end up meeting Down two or three times over the next number of months,” said the Fermanagh manager.
“This is a game that we want to win, but it’s not the be all and end all. It’s a chance to see Down in the flesh and we’re really looking forward to it.”