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On the threshold of another league season

Fermanagh's Ryan Jones on the ball during the McKenna cup semi-final.

Fermanagh’s Ryan Jones on the ball during the McKenna cup semi-final.

TACKLING MATTERS WITH DAMIAN CAMPBELL

The Dr McKenna Cup is the starting stall for the inter county season and while it is an important competition in its own right it is still essentially an opportunity for team managers to have a look at the fresh intake they have assembled.

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Results are important, but really not all that important and nobody will be reading too much into McKenna Cup progress.

That’s not to say that the form shown in the McKenna Cup will be totally disregarded by Pete McGrath and his assistants for there will have been pointers gleaned from January’s campaign.

The true potential of the fresh faces, the merit of particular tactics for example will be digested and mulled over.

The championship of course remains the be all and end all at county and club level but the bread and butter is the league.

Fermanagh remain in Division Three and there is no illusion entertained by anyone but that the team faces an extremely testing schedule over the seven match programme. The basic target will be to retain division three status.

Needless to say there will be the ambition of gaining promotion, a prize almost claimed last season.

Perhaps given the fact that the 2015 panel shows considerable change from the experienced 2014 squad, the failure to make promotion to the second flight last Spring was in hindsight, a blessing in disguise.

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With our current platoon liberally strewn with newcomers a second division campaign against the likes of Galway, Meath, Kildare and Down would have been a more than daunting challenge.

We’re better off where we are and instead of heading into a struggle to stay in division two we can face into the more satisfying business of challenging for promotion.

But first things first and retention of Division Three status is the top priority.

Here the McKenna Cup experience should give us a reasonable pointer to our prospects. It has been an encouraging January with two wins recorded one of these against Derry.

Two defeats to Donegal and Cavan, but here they were wafer thin and on that form it would suggest that the side should be able to make a more than decent fist of third division fare.

Six points should be sufficient but that total still not an absolute guarantee.

The test begins with a home tie and unhappily we only have three of them. Four fixtures away from home is a downside so it will be critical to get off to a solid start. The Louth game this Saturday evening in Brewster could well be a make or break effort even if it is first on the schedule with six games still leaving a lot to play for.
Saturday evening then the real business begins but the displays in the McKenna Cup hopefully suggests that the wind is set fair.

Buzz back in the championship draw
Writing in this column 12 months back I commented that for the championship draw at the February County Board meeting there had been a distinct air of indifference, apathy even.

What had normally been one of the most anticipated items of business on the agenda was conducted in a decidedly low key atmosphere. Delegates gave the impression that they really weren’t all that pushed.

No surprise really for there could be no disputing the fact that our internal championships had become stale.

Next week’s meeting will surely have an entirely different atmosphere.

This time we have a radically revamped championship format which will include the re-introduction of the junior competition.

The senior event normally attracts the greatest attention and presumably will occupy the top headlines.

But I would suggest that it is the intermediate championship which will garner most of the attention come next Monday evening. In fact it could be claimed that the intermediate will be the championship which everyone will be talking about.

The intermediate competition is going to be a fascinating dogfight. One only has to look at the starting line-up for confirmation.

From last season’s first division we have Belcoo, Newtownbutler and Teemore, from this season’s first division we have Lisnaskea and Maguiresbridge, and completing the entry are solid citizens Kinawley, Irvinestown and a revived Enniskillen.

Hazard a winner from that!

And it’s great to see the junior back on the schedule, one of the linchpin competitions in decades gone past.

A club summer championship schedule that will be much anticipated.

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