The Ulster final was a sobering experience for Fermanagh players, management and fans alike. This Saturday though, the championship is back open for business and the Ernesiders have an opportunity to take a place among the first ever set of Super 8s.
Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher says getting over defeat in the Ulster final is an ongoing process, but a win against Kildare would certainly go some small way to healing the pain.
“There was a huge level of disappointment,” said the Erne boss. “When you want to win something so badly it’s natural. At the same time there’s a big prize at stake. This is the first year ever of the Super 8s. It’s a wee bit of an unknown, but it looks like a very attractive place to be.
“That was a big help in getting the boys heads around it. It’s not just one qualifier to get into a quarter-final, it’s to get into a really special competition.
“We feel we didn’t do ourselves justice too, albeit Donegal played very well on the day. But we’d be very disappointed in our own level of performance, that we didn’t play anywhere near to the level we played against Armagh or Monaghan. If we had done that we could have made more of a contest of it.
“We’ve got to look at our own performance, rectify a few of those things and try to make to make sure we play well enough to give ourselves a chance of winning the game, which I don’t think we did the last day.”
Gallagher readily admits that Fermanagh will be going out with the firm intention of imposing their game on Kildare, something they never succeeded in doing in the Ulster final.
“In the first ten, 12 minutes [against Donegal] we were in some sort of control, but that quickly disappeared. That’s the disappointing thing from our point of view. It disappeared so quickly and we were never able to get it back.
“We didn’t impose our will on the game. Break it down individually and I don’t think any player imposed themselves on their direct opponent. To give ourselves the best chance of winning we’ve got to do that. The challenge now is to get back to that.
“It’s going to take a huge performance to beat Kildare. They are naturally coming into the game on a high. In order to do that we have impose ourselves on them.”
Gallagher was in Brewster Park on Saturday evening for the meeting of Tyrone and Cavan, but he says he expected Kildare to come through their Mayo test. He was impressed with Cian O’Neill’s men, especially the fluency with which they created scoring opportunities.
“We felt from early in the week that it was likely to be one of Tyrone or Kildare. We couldn’t play Monaghan or Armagh so we started getting our heads around both teams.
“It was a good game [Kildare v Mayo] and they were fairly impressive throughout. They are physically very powerful, which we would have known. They created an awful lot of scoring chances against a team like Mayo, we know how strong they’ve been defensively over this past number of years.
“Kildare kicked 21 points and a few wides as well so their ability to create scoring chances was huge. You’d have seen that when they scored 2-22 against Derry and put up 1-16 against Longford. When they’re dominating the middle of the field their capable of creating an awful lot of scoring chances.”
Fermanagh have first hand experience of that, having been on the wrong end of a 4-14 to 0-14 spanking in Newbridge in the league last year. Gallagher doesn’t dismiss that experience, insisting that players embrace and learn the lessons doled out in that defeat.
“We’ve got to be aware of their strengths. It’s a different set up this year, but we are aware of how they did damage against us last year and we have to limit that. We then have to try and take the game to them and exploit any weaknesses we might feel they have.
“We feel we’re coming from a different trajectory. Albeit it we’re coming off a loss we’ve been defensively quite sound throughout the year.
“We paid a high price for having to chase the game the last time and that’s something we’re going to try and address this weekend.”