By Niall Gartland
All-Ireland Junior Championship Group One Round Two
Fermanagh v Wicklow
Saturday, Lannleire, 3pm
FERMANAGH ladies boss Jonny Garrity is happy to report that he has a really strong panel at his disposal ahead of Saturday’s All-Ireland Junior Championship opener against Wicklow.
The Erne Gaels have welcomed back Joanne Doonan from Australia while her Kinawley team-mate Blaithin Bogue – who missed out earlier in the year – is also available, and the good news doesn’t end there.
Free-scoring forward Eimear Smyth, Aisling O’Brien and Shannon McQuaid also missed league matches in the spring and they’re all flying fit as well, while the camp has, touch wood, not been affected too much by the ongoing pandemic.
They reached last year’s All-Ireland Junior final where they were defeated by Louth, so returning manager Garrity hopes that all the pieces are in place to go one better this time around.
“We’re delighted with the panel we’re bringing in the All-Ireland series. We’ve got full belief in the quality of our girls and they’ve worked really hard to make sure their fitness is up to a good levewl as well.
“With everything considered, we think we probably have the strongest panel we’ve had since I came on board as manager two years ago.
“We’ll be going in very determined to get back to the All-Ireland final and hopefully make amends for last year’s defeat. The girls have been brilliant and are going in with a lot of confidence.”
This is Fermanagh ladies’ first competitive match in more than half-a-year as the Ulster Junior Championship has been postponed. There’s only three teams in the group so they have to hit the ground running against a Wicklow side that scored a good victory in their opening round encounter against Carlow.
“We’ve looking for a good start especially as Wicklow and Carlow had the luxury of getting underway last week. Wicklow are a quality team so we’ll have to be at our best.”
While none of the panel have tested positive for Covid-19, the senior men’s team weren’t so lucky, which has been well-documented at this stage. Fintona native Garrity says a few of their players had to self-isolate as a result, but at the time of going to press everyone is available this weekend.
“We’ve had our difficulties, a few of the girls are going out with men’s players, a couple of the girls have had to isolate for two weeks and that’s disrupted things a bit.
“But we’ve had no positive cases which is a real bonus and I think you have to accept it’s one of those years where there are going to be speedbumps and things could change. You have to be adaptable and ensure you have a strong squad and are ready to go.”