Fermanagh minor manager Simon Bradley is under no illusion as to how big a job his side face on Sunday evening in Clones when they take on Cavan in the?Ulster?Minor Football Championship quarter-final.
The Breffnimen produced a strong performance in seeing off Armagh last Sunday and they will head to Clones with confidence high that they can progress through to the semi-final.
And Bradley stresses that it is going to take a massive effort from his charges if they are to come out of Clones with their championship aspirations still intact.
“Cavan are a very big, physical team. They are huge around the middle of the pitch and have some real quality players so they will go into this game as raging hot favourites,” commented Bradley. “If you look at the form guide, Armagh walloped us in the league plate semi-final and then Cavan beat them on Sunday. However, the boys have worked hard all year despite the difficulties with the preparation, and we do have six or seven quality players who if they all perform will give any team trouble. It is a matter though of performing on the day at this level because you only get one chance.”
Bradley has a number of injury concerns to deal with ahead of Sunday’s showdown, including team captain Colin Logan. If Logan is not fit to take his place it will leave Fermanagh with a serious hole to fill in an area where Cavan are particularly strong.
“We have a couple of major worries. Colin Logan and James Allen would be big worries for us and they both started midfield for us last year. We will literally take a decision on Sunday morning whether those two boys tog out, let alone play. We’re working hard with the medical team though to try and make sure that they are fit to go.”
And Bradley knows that the battle at midfield is going to be crucial: “It is going to require a huge effort to first of all break even around that middle third and then we are going to have to take every opportunity we get. Last year against Down we had nine wides in the first half and we just cannot afford to hit wides on Sunday, we have to take every chance that comes our way.”
The Fermanagh manager reports that preparations have not been ideal while they have also had to work around the possibility of the game taking place either this Sunday or, if Armagh?won, Sunday June 16.
“Preparations are severely hindered because the vast majority of our players are playing adult football and club minor football. Reaslistically, we have been training with the full panel maybe two or three times out of the last six weeks. Wednesday nights have become sort of recovery sessions for us and Friday nights is when we have tried to do a bit of training but we are conscious of the fact that are players are playing on Saturday or a Sunday and then playing on Tuesday for their club minor teams. It is something we have had to deal with this year and last year and it does hinder greatly preparation,” said Simon.
On trying to prepare a team to peak with two dates in mind, he added: “We were aware of the fixture date so we were hedging our bets as we knew that Cavan and Armagh was going to be a close game. We were anticipating for next week but hoping probably for the 16th in order to guarantee the players a big championship occasion which is very important for their development and experience.”
And Bradley is disappointed that the players will not have the opportunity to play in front of the big championship crowd as a curtain raiser for the senior championship clash. Due to Leaving Cert examinations, Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal don’t play in June so the game will now be played as a single game in Clones on Sunday evening.
“I’m absolutely gutted for them because for some it might be the only occasion that they would have got to play county football in front of that type of crowd. I know last year the players really enjoyed the experience and the?atmosphere?of playing in front of the big crowd against Down and I myself had the opportunity to play four times at this level before the senior game and I can remember each game vividly. It is not to be though and it is very disappointing for the players.”
Bradley though is still looking forward to the game and is hoping that his players can produce a performance.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the players have developed and also how they handle the occasion, even though it is a more dulled down occasion. It is a time now for some players to really show what they are made of and hopefully we will get a performance out of them.”