By Mark McGoldrick
FROM his very first media interview last October, James Daly made no secret of his goals for this Fermanagh team and his plans for the future.
The Armagh man believed that the Erne ladies could compete against the very best in the country and deserved to be playing at a higher level than the Junior Championship.
On Sunday, he is hoping to guide them to their third All-Ireland junior title and he is well up for the challenge.
“The girls are buzzing since the final whistle against Limerick,” he said.
“Everybody is raring to go.
“You are getting to play at GAA Headquarters [Croke Park] and we are all looking forward to it.”
This season has not been simple for Daly and his management team.
The Dromintee native inherited a young squad of players, with many having never played senior inter-county football before.
Despite this, the Erne ladies overcame the odds to book their place in the national final and Daly is proud of how the team has grown and developed over the past nine months.
“For one reason or another, we had a few girls who didn’t come in this year and we are hoping to get them all back for next year,” he explains.
“The girls who are here have worked really hard. We lost the league semi-final, we lost the Ulster final and we are now in the All-Ireland final. You are not going to win every game and the way that you learn is by losing because losing builds character.
“There is a great resolve and the girls keep coming back and every time we go to training there is a buzz because there is always more in the tank.
“They are good girls, quality footballers and always willing to learn.”
Standing in Fermanagh’s way of All-Ireland glory is old foes Antrim.
The Erne ladies have locked horns with the Saffrons three times already this season, with Fermanagh winning just one of their meetings.
Daly is expecting another massive test from the ‘favourites.’
“Both teams know each other very well by now,” he smiled.
“There is no real surprises, it is going to come down to who is going to perform on the day, who can handle the nerves.
“Antrim are the favourites because they were beaten in last year’s final and they are a bit more experienced and a bit
further down the road, but we
are ready for the game and
ready to give them a real good battle.”
Gaelic Life understands that Fermanagh has been dealt a serious injury blow ahead of the final on Sunday.
Kinawley’s Eimear Keenan, Fermanagh’s tenacious corner back, picked up a serious facial injury at training last week during an accidental collision wherein she took an elbow to the mouth and is unlikely to be able to play.
Daly, however, remained coy when asked about player availability.
“We have a few niggles but we are not going to show our hand to Antrim,” he said firmly.
“For the most part, everybody is available.”
Last Thursday, the Fermanagh ladies held an open training session and a meet and greet evening in Brewster Park with opportunities for young Gaels to meet the players and get their photos taken.
The county ground was a sea of green and white and Daly feels that the Erne ladies can take great heart from this, knowing that they have the support of the Erne county this weekend.
“It is great for the young kids to meet these girls,” he said.
“You are always thinking of the future and that is the future.
“It is great for the girls that they see people are interested, and hopefully, we will get good support in Croke Park on the day.
“Everybody is looking forward to it and I’m hoping to see a few flags up around the county over the next few days.”