TOUGH times for the Fermanagh team. As one of the last teams in championship action, their defeat to Donegal means that they have little time to lick their wounds before turning their focus to the qualifiers.
Fermanagh clearly had put a lot of effort into their preparation for the Ulster Championship. Physically, mentally, they looked like a side with no lack of belly for the battle.
Lapses of concentration were punished ruthlessly by Donegal, and Fermanagh didn’t help their cause with a few costly moments of hesitancy in attack.
The pain of the defeat still burns with manager Rory Gallagher.
“It’s a disappointment any day you lose in the Ulster Championship. We invested a lot in it. The whole year was focused on getting ready for that game.
“The McKenna Cup and league are very important at the time, but it’s about preparing and trying to be at your best to get over the line in the first round of Ulster. When you don’t do that it can hurt a lot. But that’s something you have to get used to and move on from.
Yes, there was a huge amount of preparation, hunger and desire. To see the players turn up and deliver an awful lot of positives and compete at that level is something which can’t be taken for granted.
“We’ll not get over-dramatic about not getting over the line against Donegal. We know what we did well and we’re well aware of how and where we need to improve, both with and without the ball.
“You saw the standard of some of Donegal’s individual players and their skillsets.
So last Monday morning, Gallagher was in Belleek tuned into RTE Radio 1 for the first-round qualifier draw. One senses he allowed himself a rueful smile as he listened to the drama unfold.
“I heard the draw and after draw three, four and five you were thinking Monaghan are still in this and we’re still in this. There was almost an air of inevitability.
“That’s the dynamic of the qualifiers. Ourselves are Monaghan were the two highest ranked teams in the league who went into the qualifiers but that’s the luck of the draw and you just have to realign.
“It’s a natural reaction for people to say that Monaghan are going to have the motivation for it after last year. Our boys suffered against Monaghan and Donegal manys a time, so there’s huge motivation for ourselves to continue to beat the teams ranked above us.
“You don’t get a lot of credit for beating teams it’s perceived you should beat. You want to beat the best teams. That’s the challenge for anyone involved in management. Yes you would’ve taken a handier draw to get up and running but that’s not the hand we were dealt.”
Monaghan will have their own demons to slay after their demoralising defeat to Cavan. But with Malachy O’Rourke’s side having suffered defeat to Fermanagh in the Ulster semi-final last year, hosting the Erne men in Clones will provide ample motivation for the Farney men to get back up on the horse.
“Monaghan present a slightly different challenge to Donegal. Every team is a wee bit different, there’s small bits of room for manoeuvre in every game you play.
“Last year we went into the Monaghan game with a firm belief we could beat them. This year will be no different. We know we need to do an awful lot right and we can’t afford to miss chances that we did miss against Donegal.”
Going into the do-or-die clash with Monaghan a question mark hangs over the fitness of Fermanagh’s top scorer this year, Sean Quigley.
“Sean carried a niggle into the Donegal game and we just have to see how he rehabs,” said the Erne boss.
“It’s not an overly severe hamstring injury, but it’s a niggle which means he couldn’t open out at full speed. We threw absolutely everything into that [Donegal] game – if he was going to miss the next game we were going to deal with that, so if he misses this one we’ll have to deal with that.”