Armagh will be Fermanagh’s Ulster Championship quarter-final opposition next summer.
It’s a draw which won’t daunt Erne players or supporters, giving the county real conviction that the provincial campaign can get off to a positive start.
The Ernesiders new boss was happy with the draw, and continuing an usual run of championship luck.
“In my time in Donegal over six years we struck home draws every single year so I’m having a lucky run in it and I’m delighted with that,” said Rory Gallagher. “If we can make Brewster Park a place where we enjoy playing during the league that will stand to us.
“Armagh had a good run to the All-Ireland quarter-finals in recent years, but at the end of the day they are still in Division 3 and it’s a game both teams will look forward to.
“Over the last seven years our return in Ulster has been poor, it’s very disappointing, everybody is aware of that. When we find out the date of that Ulster quarter-final our season will be geared towards being in absolutely peak condition for that game and bringing our best performance.
“Obviously we’ll be looking to do well in the league, but everything will be geared towards being at our best on that date.”
And on that point, the fixtures for Fermanagh’s 2018 NFL Division 3 campaign were also revealed last week. The Ernesiders have to be happy with the draw with four home games pencilled in. Also the 70 mile jaunt to Mullingar is the longest trip on the itinerary for Rory Gallagher’s men.
“Logistically the draw couldn’t have been kinder,” said the Gallagher. “Wexford and Offaly would have been two overnight trips if we had been away to either of them. Being away to Sligo, Longford and Westmeath isn’t overly taxing, travel-wise. We have the two Ulster teams at home and it’s looking like Saturday nights, so we’d be happy with way the fixtures have fallen. However, it’s up to us to capitalise on them.
“Over the years, when Fermanagh have been going well, Brewster Park and making sure you get the results at home has been a strong part of that. In the meantime we’ll just gear towards doing everything right between now and the Wexford game and take it from there.”
One concern might be the new, more compressed NFL schedule which sees the competition’s round robin stages wrapped up in two months flat. Any injuries to big players could really cost a county like Fermanagh, where ready made replacements aren’t always readily available. One of Gallagher’s main focuses is going to be on getting players ready for the physical challenges of the coming season and making them less prone to injury.
“I have found the National League to be a really enjoyable competition. Players and managers love playing games regularly. Injuries are part of that, but you can avoid injuries if you work really hard between now and then. If the players, individually and collectively, prepare their bodies and do the right type of training and we arrive in the National League in good shape I’d be looking forward to it.
“It’s a great challenge, a great way of learning. There’s a quick turnaround of games so you’ve the opportunity to look back and see what you did well, what you didn’t do well and change things for the next game.”
One of the casualties of the new programme is likely to be the McKenna cup which could be wrote off altogether if weather goes against it in January. That doesn’t leave a new manager like Gallagher much time to get to know his players before the meat of the league.
“We haven’t overly thought about it, it’s not a priority. We’ll see how we go over the next number of weeks, but we’ll certainly look to make the most of the games. It’s at a time when you might not have a huge volume of training, but the short term focus for me will definitely will be the end of January and the first league game against Wexford.”
Posted: 6:39 pm October 27, 2017