Having overcome Westmeath to progress into Round Two of the All Ireland Qualifiers, it will be an all too familiar foe for Peter Canavan and his Fermanagh charges on July 13 after they were drawn to play neighbours Cavan in Kingspan Breffni Park.
Cavan, of course, beat Fermanagh in the Ulster Championship on June 16 and also had the better of Canavan’s side in the Qualifiers last year while Fermanagh defeated the Breffnimen in the league earlier this year.
The Fermanagh manager therefore knows that they are coming up against stiff opposition.
“It’s an opponent that we have had close games with in the past, in fact no later than two weeks ago, so we know exactly what we are up against. Cavan have proven to be formidable opposition this year and despite the fact they lost the Ulster semi-final they came within the kick off a ball of winning it and probably felt unlucky not to have at least got a draw out of it,” commented Canavan.
Fermanagh struggled to perform against Terry Hyland’s side in that recent Brewster Park encounter but Canavan is hoping that they can come away with a differing outcome on July 13.
“We were highly motivated for the first game but we didn’t beat them. We went out and we didn’t perform as we would have liked to, and you have to give Cavan credit for that. It’s a case of trying to rectify the mistakes we made that day and go out and try and put our own stamp on it. We’ll try and play our own game and hopefully we will come out with a different result,” he added.
The Fermanagh boss is pleased with the response he has got from the players since the defeat to Cavan and he feels that they will have benefited from having a couple of championship games now under their belts.
“They showed good character to bounce back immediately after the Cavan defeat because they were devastated and didn’t take too well the fact that we lost on our home ground,” he said. “Their approach was very good after it. They were back out in training, everybody was keen to make a statement in the Qualifiers and thankfully we’ve done that. We’re up and at it now and the fact that we’ve played those couple of games will have helped us and it leaves us in a better position.”
Last Saturday was Fermanagh’s chance to put right the wrongs of the loss to Cavan and despite making life difficult for themselves, they came through against a fancied Westmeath side thanks to a last gasp Johnny Woods point. Canavan was pleased with the performance but he is not about to let the players rest on their laurels as knows there is still plenty of improvement to be made.
“Individually there was a number of very good performances, and the fact that we created so many scoring opportunities was very good as well. There is plenty of positives to be taken out of the game, but just because we won it doesn’t mean to say that we only recall the good things we done because there were a number of aspects that we were disappointed with and that means that we have plenty to work on moving forward,” he stated.
And top of that list will be the 20 wides they accrued over the course of the 70 minutes, with Canavan admitting that they were nearly made to pay for their wayward shooting.
“It’s the obvious one,” he said. “To have had so much possession and to have created so many good opportunities it really put us under a lot of pressure when playing against the breeze the fact that we didn’t convert, what should have been for our boys, so many easy scoring opportunities. That was very disappointing and it nearly cost us.”
However, while Fermanagh may have missed a large number of chances, they did bag three goals and this proved decisive in the end. Both Damian Kelly and Ryan Jones found the back of the net when they could have taken the easier option and put the ball over the bar, and Canavan felt they were right to have a go at goal.
“The importance of goals was obvious on Saturday. We had four or five chances against Westmeath and scored three so that has had a big bearing on the game.
“It is something I told the boys, if the opportunity was there go for it and be brave. That was two perfect examples whereby on another occasion maybe players would have settled for tapping it over the bar. I think they were right, the chance presented itself to them and they weren’t afraid to let fly and thankfully for us they hit the back of the net.”
Saturday also saw Fermanagh claim a first championship win since defeating Cavan in 2010, and for a large number of the squad it was their first taste of championship glory, something which should breed confidence.
“Time will tell but you would like to think it will have a positive affect and it will encourage them and give them a degree of confidence that they didn’t have prior to that. As I have told them often enough, they are good enough and it’s a case of believing it and going out and doing it. Certainly, I would like to think it will leave them on a better footing going forward,” commented Canavan.
And the former All Ireland winning captain is delighted to have notched up his first championship win as an inter-county manager.
“You like to do well in the league, and that is very important for this team, but you work all year looking forward to the championship and giving good performances. I was more than delighted with the performance either way, but you want to win and you want to win tough championship matches, and it goes without saying that there is a great degree of satisfaction when you hear the final whistle,” he said.
Saturday’s victory was therefore an important one to all concerned with the Fermanagh set up and while some would criticise the Qualifier’s, Canavan is still a big believer in the current system.
“From my own playing days, what was so devastating about defeat in a championship was you had to wait; be it on the basis of a refereeing mistake or a team-mates mistake you lose a championship match and you can do nothing about it for a year. That’s the beauty about the Qualifiers, immediately after a devastating defeat you are out pretty soon and you have a second chance and if you lose two championship games you have no complaints, you’ve had a fair crack at it. Obviously, teams have made the most of that in previous years but I think it is a fair enough system and considering the commitment and sacrifices players make they are definitely entitled to a second crack at championship football.”
This article appeared in Impartial Reporter 04 Jul 13