Enniskillen boss content with winning start

By Niall Gartland

ENNISKILLEN Gaels fired off a warning shot to the rest of the county when they dismantled Derrylin in their first league outing last Friday evening on – get this – a scoreline of 7-19 to 1-2.

Among those to impress were county duo Conor Love (3-5) and Callum Jones (2-9), but manager Simon Bradley won’t be getting too carried away this early in the season.

Bradley managed Enniskillen to Senior Championship honours in 2006 and returned for a second stint in charge two years ago, and he wasted no time in getting to work, bridging their 16-year gap without a senior title with victory over Erne Gaels on county final day.

Last year wasn’t quite as fruitful but they have a strong team backboned by county players and former county players, and he acknowledged that their thumping win over Derrylin was an impressive way to start their league campaign.

Bradley said: “To be fair, Derrylin had quite a number of players away on holiday so they were well short, but it was still nice, everything we hit went under or over the bar, it was one of those days. The likes of Conor Love, Conor McShea, Callum Jones, they all looked very sharp, that’s the first time they’ve been back with us.”

It wasn’t the Gaels’ first competitive outing of the new season, however. They also fielded in the Club Players Competition, a precursor to the league proper which isn’t without significance.

Reigning champions Derrygonnelly came out on top of the first-placed play-offs with victory over Ederney, taking three points into the leagues. Enniskillen didn’t fare quite so well but it was a useful exercise on the whole, says Bradley.

“The winners get three points but there’s a few different play offs and we ended up with a point ourselves.

“It’s not the end of the world to go into the main league two points behind the leaders. Plus it gave us a chance to look at young lads who mightn’t otherwise be ready for senior football for another year or two.

“You can look at the Club Players Competition through rose-tinted glasses or negative ones. We try to look at it as a positive. It does put a bit of pressure on our reserve team as some of them have to double up with the senior team but we’re lucky we have a big enough squad.”

In terms of the runners and riders, Bradley says it’s hard to make any concrete predictions about how the league is likely to pan out, particularly due to the lack of an assigned holiday period in Fermanagh football.

“It’ll be a real mix. I think it’ll depend on what players teams have available from week to week. Players tend to be missing at various stages as we have no holiday period, so it’s very evenly balanced.

“There’s five or six teams who would fancy their chances on any given day against anybody, so you can’t really look at the fixtures and say this or that is guaranteed. That day is gone but it’s good that it’s very competitive.”

That said, Bradley doesn’t blame the county board for the lack of a holiday period, and there is scope for agreeing alternative arrangements with individual clubs.

“Because of the way the intercounty season is, we don’t know when Fermanagh will be out, and they could’ve got to the Tailteann Cup final. It’s hard for the county board as they don’t know when the county team will be playing or not playing.

“We have the freedom to contact one another in terms of games. We’re playing Belnaleck for example on the week of the ‘Sevens’.

“They won last year and presumably would like to defend their title and we’d like to go down to the ‘Sevens’ again as well so we’ll contact them.”

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