By Niall Gartland
YOU could argue that Fermanagh have got the short straw – they’ve been pitted against reigning champions Down in Friday night’s Ulster u-20 Championship preliminary round clash – but their manager Maurice McLaughlin is looking
forward to the challenge of taking their place among the quarter-finalists.
It’s a re-run of last year’s semi-final clash against the Mourne County, and in fairness Fermanagh battled hard and despite struggling up front, there were only six points between the two sides at the final whistle.
Erne Gaels man Maurice McLaughlin is happy to be back (he managed the u-17s for two years before his appointment as u-20 manager ahead of last season) and has adopted a positive approach towards what should be a tough test for his charges.
“Somebody has to play in the preliminary round every year so it’s not an issue for us. Down are Ulster champions and that speaks for itself, they’re the aristocrats of Ulster football but we’re not going there to lose.”
At senior level, Fermanagh have held their own in Division Three this year and McLaughlin says its been gratifying to see some of his former players make the big step up to the senior team.
“It’s good to see lads coming through, even of last year’s minors, we’ve Ronan [McCaffrey] coming through. From last year’s u-20 team you have Josh Largo-Ellis and Sean McNally is there in goals. Joe McDaid is featuring quite a lot too so it’s nice to see the continuity there.”
The provincial matches will be played on Friday nights across the board, and McLaughlin says he’s happy enough that that’s the case.
“It’s the way that it is and it was the same last year, it’s a good enough time for a lot of these young lads. It leaves ample time for recovery at the weekend and hopefully we’ll be doing a recovery session on Sunday morning preparing for the next week.”
In the pre-season Philly McGuinness competition, Fermanagh’s record read one victory and two defeats. At the same time, it was a useful endeavour for McLaughlin and the rest of his management team, among whom are former Fermanagh footballer Colm Bradley and Aidan McElroy.
“Preparation was good, we used 30 different players in the competition, we came up against a very strong Sligo team and I felt that was the one game we really didn’t perform in, we were beaten by five points, we bounced back and beat Leitrim in our second game.
“We went down to Longford by two points in the last time but as far as preparation goes, it was very useful.”