Fermanagh’s first league game at home is this coming Sunday with Galway the guests.
The sides drew last year, but Fermanagh supremo Pete McGrath believes Brewster’s fortress status will be a significant asset as his side bids to go one better on that result.
“Over this last few years we’ve played a lot of games in Brewster and lost only one, so it has become a citadel and something we defend with great energy and determination.
“Galway are a great county with great tradition, but they are in the same division as we are, so we will go toe-to-toe with them. I think if we perform to the same level we did in the second half tonight it’s a game we’re very capable of winning.
“The team is now in good shape physically and mentally. They have become resilient and able to dig in a deal with wee pressure situations and come out the other side and that’s very important for any side.”
That resilience will be fully tested this Sunday when Galway come to Brewster Park. They had set down a marker for the season by winning back to back FBD leagues, but they received a timely reality check in their NFL opener.
The Tribe entertained Cork last Sunday in Salthill and fought out a 0-14 to 1-11 with a Rebel side which, like themselves, will consider anything less than promotion in 2017 a failure.
Galway were lucky to earn that point with Cork creating the preponderance of scoring chances. The Munster outfit hit 15 wides, including a sitter from Colm O’Neill with the last kick of the game which would have given the visitors full points.
Galway boss Kevin Walsh will be anxious to get a win on the board, not only to stop the league getting away on his men, but to restore confidence and pride.
He’ll have to do it without his Corofin contingent though. Gary Sice, Liam Silke, Michael Farragher, Michael Lundy, Bernard Power and Cathal Silke will all be focusing on their All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final match-up with Dr Croke’s in Limerick.
On the plus side two new players have come forward to take on the scoring burden this season. Mountbellew Moylough man has emerged from the fringes of the panel to become Galway’s top scorer in 2017 with 0-29, a figure which includes six frees against Cork. Meanwhile Cillian McDaid of Monivea Abbeyknockmoy is a 2015 minor who announced himself in some style in the FBD league, hitting 3-2 and striking for a point against the Rebels.
However, despite Kevin Walsh’s reputation as an advocate of defensive football, Galway continue to cough up scores relatively easily and this is an ongoing concern for the county’s followers.
Fermanagh drew with Galway down in Tuam last year and there is little to separate the sides, but three are signs that Pete McGrath’s charges can go into the game with justifiable confidence and conviction.
Should the Ernesiders manage to gain victory over Galway, four points after the first two games would certainly be a formidable shot in the arm for Fermanagh’s promotion hopes, rated at 16/1 by some bookies at the start of the campaign.
“With a break coming up after the second match you always say if you can get two wins and four points going into the break it’s a great place to be,” said McGrath. “But you’ve got to tackle each team as you meet them. Down was a standalone game. We’ve won it, Galway is another standalone game. Hopefully win it and then see what way the landscape looks after than.”
Ryan Jones may play some part in that game and if he does he’ll be adding to an increasingly potent Fermanagh attacking threat. There were nine different scorers on the mark in Newry and the boss is gratified to see his charges adding that string to their bow.
“There’s a good range of scorers and as well as that you’ve got Tomás [Corrigan] who’s very clinical from play and from frees. Big Sean [Quigley] scored a marvellous point from play. He not as fit as he will be, it’s his first full game in quite a while, so it’ll take him maybe that bit longer, but he’s got the match under his belt. But a good range of scorers is something that’s very useful when the game gets tight.
“Midfield was excellent too, our fielding, work rate in the tackle, getting around men, although in the first half Down had seven turn overs and we had three. They won the turn overs in the first half and we were determined to reverse that in the second half which I think we did.”
Asked about his target for remainder of the campaign, McGrath’s answer is prompt and unambiguous.
“Promotion. I think our team is good enough to play in division one. We have to prove it of course over the next six matches, but I believe we are and I believe we have made a statement about that against Down.”
A win over Galway would be yet another major statement.