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It’s early days but there are positive signs

February 19th, 2013

It is early days, after all we are only in the second week of February and only two rounds of the league have been played, but from a Fermanagh perspective there are plenty of positive signs to come out of the opening two league games.

With four points on the board, Peter Canavan and his management team can only be delighted with how things have gone to date as his side sit top of Division Three following two comfortable wins over Wicklow and Roscommon. This is the start that Fermanagh will have targeted going into the league and it gives them a great platform to build from when the action resumes at the start of March.

Getting the two wins on the board will give the side confidence and automatically have them looking towards the top half of the table instead of being under pressure from early in the campaign following a couple of defeats.

The management and players though won’t get too carried away with things and they will be only too aware that a couple of successive defeats could see things turn the other way given the tight nature of the division. You only have to look at the fact that Fermanagh are the only team to have won their first two games to see that every team is capable of beating any other.

Some will say that Fermanagh got both Wicklow and Roscommon at the right time as they were both missing players, and Canavan stated as much himself following the win on Saturday night against the Rossies. However, Fermanagh too have been without players but those who have come in have more than done their bit and Canavan has shown so far that if the man in possession is doing a good job then he will hold on to the jersey.

Defensively, Fermanagh have been excellent during the first two games. They have been very disciplined in their tackling, defended in numbers and have been able to force turnovers. And they then attack in numbers from deep and at pace, the defence being the launchpad for plenty of their forward forays.

John Woods has been outstanding so far in the league while wing backs Declan McCusker and Marty O’Brien are another two players who can carry the ball at pace and are capable of getting forward and joining in with attacks but also know how to defend.

The side have also done well in winning their fair share of ball in the middle third. Ryan Jones has shown plenty of potential at midfield while James Sherry has worked tirelessly, doing a lot of the dirty work in that sector. And there is still Marty McGrath to consider, the former All Star have made a good impression when coming off the bench and will be keen to force his way into the starting line up.

One area of concern going into the league was Fermanagh’s ability to put scores on the board.

This was the main thing to come out of the Tyrone game in the McKenna Cup but the side seem to be learning the lessons from that game and have posted two healthy scores in the two games to date, 1-16 and 2-12.

Indeed, all six of the forwards who started against Roscommon registered scores from play last Saturday night.

And Sean Quigley has been a major bonus for the side during the first two games.

Quigley has scored 0-13 over the two games with his free taking having been excellent while he also gives Fermanagh the option of going more direct as he can compete in the air, Paul Ward’s goal in the second half coming off a ball that he broke down.

What will have delighted Canavan the most about Saturday night though was the response that Fermanagh produced when they were put under pressure from Roscommon.

There was no folding when Roscommon clawed their way back to within three points. No collapse when the Rossies looked to be getting the upperhand. Instead, Fermanagh raised their game and fired over some brilliant scores from flowing moves to put the game to bed.

The fact that Canavan and his backroom team have been able to put in a full pre-season has been a big plus.

Not only have the players worked very hard to reach the required fitness levels but it has also given the management a chance to impress on the players the style of play they want from them and that has been evident in the league.

As I’ve said though, nobody will be getting ahead of themselves. There is a lot of room for improvement yet, and that improvement will be required as the season progresses. For one, they will have been disappointed with the two goals conceded against Roscommon.

Canavan will be very aware that there is still a lot of football to be played in Division Three and tougher challenges lie ahead.

Indeed, with the next three games, all against Ulster teams, could well be the defining games of the campaign for Fermanagh.

Next up is Antrim and then it is Monaghan, followed by Cavan. Three tough games after which we will have learnt a lot more about the side.



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