KILDARE V FERMANAGH
Sunday, Newbridge, 7.30pm
By John Hughes
NOW a teacher in St Kevin’s, Lisnaskea, Ciaran Corrigan has more motivation than most to get the league off to a victorious start this Sunday.
“I got a red card in the McKenna Cup and the boys and girls were slagging me about that, so it would be good to get off to a winning start,” laughs the Maguiresbridge dynamo.
Joking aside though, Corrigan knows that, as league starts go, they could hardly come much tougher. Kildare, now under the stewardship of legendary Kerry manager Jack O’Connor, entertain Fermanagh in cramped environs of St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge. They’ll be looking to be just as uncongenial hosts as Fermanagh were last year when they defeated the Lilywhites 0-8 to 0-6 in Enniskillen.
“Kildare in the first game are going to be a massive challenge,” said Corrigan.
“They are a hugely physical side and they’ll be looking to get revenge on us for last year when we turned them over in Brewster Park. It’ll have a bit of bite to it.
“They are just outside the top six or seven teams in the country this past while and they’ll be hoping to make the breakthrough.
“Kildare will have their own strengths and we’ll try to work to ours. I suppose you just have to try and play your own game. I’m sure the management will have plans for Kildare’s big players, but hopefully we’ll be giving them something to worry about too.
“They’ll be thinking about how to counteract us too. We have to bring our own game, because you can be worried about opponents, but if you don’t bring intensity and hunger to a contest then you aren’t going to win the game.”
This is Ryan McMenamin’s first match in charge of the Ernesiders, and many of the travelling supporters will be eager to see if there’s any radical change in style from the Gallagher years.
“It’s hard to say at this stage,” said Corrigan. “Like every team we play, the aim will be to score more than the opposition and try and keep their scoring as low as you can.
“Sometimes I think you can get bogged down in tactics, and it comes down to no more than that.
“We’ll be looking to score more this season than we have in previous seasons and that’s something we’ve been working on. We have to get the right blend of both and hopefully we’re getting there.”
Sunday will be the first competitive game in three weeks for both sides. Previously most teams would have had a maximum of two weeks between the end of pre-season and the start of the league, but with the reconfiguration of the fixtures calendar, county teams have been kicking their heels longer than usual at this time of year. Is that something which will be a factor in this opening round of games?
“It’s hard to know,” said Corrigan. “The management used it as a real opportunity to get a look at players and that will have given them something to think about.
“I think we used up on 30 players and plenty of men have put their hands up which is brilliant.
“Going into the first game it’ll be interesting to see who they think is their best team. I
know I wouldn’t like to be picking it.”
Corrigan says Fermanagh will be approaching this league programme much like last year’s successful campaign, hopefully with similar results. The initial goal though will be protecting Division 2 status, now more important than ever in the light of changes to the All-Ireland championships.
“There’s no real lofty targets, it’s the old thing of a game at a time.
“The first two games are massive. Away to Kildare, which is a big journey and an overnight stay which brings its own challenges.
“Then we’re home to Roscommon in the second game and they are just down from Division 1.
“You look at those two games thinking if you can get through those with a couple of wins you’re looking up for promotion and if you lose them you’ve a battle on your hands.
“In every Division your first two games are massive, it’s a case of just getting points on the board.
“It’s going to be a very competitive league, especially with Tier Two coming in. Teams in Division 3 will be really pushing for top two and likewise in Division 2 you really need to avoid relegation in order to play Tier One championship.”