From favourites for the drop to promotion challengers
Fermanagh could take another big step towards gaining promotion to Division Two this weekend when they face Kevin Walsh’s Sligo outfit at Brewster?Park?on Sunday.
Last Saturday night’s victory over Cavan in BreffniPark?put Peter Canavan’s side in a great position with two games to go although they will be expecting a tough encounter against a Sligo side who will be fighting tooth and nail for the points to take them out of the relegation zone.
Fermanagh currently sit a point behind leaders Monaghan and a point ahead of third placed Meath, the two teams tipped to finish in the promotion spots at the start of the season.
That Canavan’s side were 4/7 favourites for the drop makes their league form all the more impressive, and there is no doubt that they are where they are on merit.
The first target going into the league would have been to avoid relegation and then see how far they can push on, and with relegation now not an issue, Canavan will be keen for his side to try and go on and secure a top two finish while the manager has stated that they will also use the next two games to try and improve their style of play.
Fermanagh have been extremely competitive this year – as competitive as they have been for a few years – and winning games like last Saturday night’s under the lights in Breffni Park is a massive lift, not only for the players and management, but for the supporters too who want to see their side do well in big games like that.
This is a side who, while far from the finished article, are moving in the right direction.
The work rate and commitment of the players is there for everybody to see. They are prepared to battle hard for every ball, are playing some good football and are sticking to the game plan that the management has set out.
Defensively, there was an improvement in the Cavan game from the Monaghan game when Fermanagh coughed up too many cheap scores. They were more hands on and physical in Breffni Park with the defence aided by the return of captain Ryan McCluskey. They went on to dominate at midfield last week with Marty McGrath producing a second big performance in a row in the middle of the park. McGrath’s physical presence and determination has given Fermanagh a great platform around the middle third and if he can continue to stay away from injury then he is going to be a massive plus for Canavan.
Alongside him, Shane Lyons goes about his business in a highly effective manner and was excellent against Cavan with Ryan Jones also dropping in to help out at midfield.
It is though going to take another big, big display if they are to put another two points on the board on Sunday. Sligo could well be going into this game level with Fermanagh having thrown away commanding leads against both Cavan and Meath in their last two games as wins were turned into defeats.
The Yeatsmen are a powerful side who have plenty of punch in attack in the likes of Aiden Marren and Martin Brehony, and Fermanagh will be very aware that any slackness in defence will be punished.
What Fermanagh must also make sure is that they take their chances when they come along. The biggest criticism of last week’s performance would be that when they had Cavan on the ropes at the start of the second half they didn’t put the game to bed. A number of good chances were not taken and Canavan admitted after then game that it is something that they are going to have to work on, that they needed to be more clinical than they were.
However, there were nine players who got on the score-sheet last Saturday, and a good spread of scorers has been noticeable in the majority of the games this season.
It also has to be said that given the injury problems that they have encountered, Fermanagh will be delighted with how things have gone so far. The likes of James Sherry, Eoin Donnelly and Sean Quigley had all made great starts to the season while Ruairi Corrigan could well have seen more game time and to lose then four of them was a massive blow.
It is a testament to the strength of the squad that those players who have come into the side have stepped up to the plate and it will fill Canavan full of confidence to know that if he loses players then he has others who are more than capable of coming in and doing the job.
Despite the injuries, there should be no lack of confidence within the Fermanagh squad on Sunday.
They will be expecting a big battle against a side desperate for the points and Canavan will be eager not to allow Sligo to build up a lead like they did in their previous two games as it is unlikely that they will let it slip for third time. Fermanagh though have no shortage of motivation themselves as they have all to play for at the top of the table and if they can apply themselves as they have done to date, and if they can be a bit more clinical in front of the posts then they could well be putting another two points in the bag.