Sunday sees Fermanagh and Antrim locking horns for the fourth time in 2019. The Ernesiders have come out on top in the three previous encounters. One of those clashes was in the Division 4 league final in Clones.
It’s back to St Tiernach’s on Sunday, with silverware on the line once again. Despite that 100 percent record against the Saffrons, Fermanagh manager Jonny Garrity acknowledges Antrim pushed the his side all the way in all three of the games so far this season. He is expecting another tough test on Sunday.
“We know them very well, but by the same token they know us very well too,” said the Erne boss. “We wouldn’t expect any real surprises or shocks. We watched them in their semi-final win over Derry and we appreciate how good a team they are and we have to plan for that.
“We’ve had a few challenges and we’ve been working hard physically and mentally to ensure we’re going in in a good place. At this stage now it’s a case of tapering off and ensuring the girls are well rested. That will be our priority before Sunday.
“Obviously we want to win it because there’s a trophy up for grabs. Our priority is going out and winning the match. We don’t mind if we win by 20 points or one point, it’s just about getting over the line when it’s a final.”
One of the key weapons in the Erne armoury has been the incendiary scoring form of Eimear Smyth one of the country’s most lethal attackers. Antrim will obviously be working hard to contain the Derrygonnelly shooter. The question is, do they have the equipment the strategy to do what so many other teams have failed to do?
“That would be a question for them,” said Garrity. “We know that any team would struggle to contain Eimear and that will be a challenge for them to come up with some way to do that. We know they have some very good players, so it’s a question of how they use those players and deploy them.
“But then the risk is taking your eye off other players. That’s the dilemma for them and we’re very happy we have Eimear in our team and it’s not something we have to worry about. What we’ll be looking to do is make sure she keeps getting the chances to do what she does.”
Garrity makes a good point. Fermanagh have been blessed with some strong scoring support this season. Joanne Doonan has been in potent form this term with Lisa and Danielle Maguire and Blaithín Bogue all contributing well too.
“In any given game the most important thing is that we get the scores,” said Garrity. “Where they come from is secondary to that. We have been lucky in that there has been a good spread. We know we have players who have the ability to score from all over the pitch, from the defence right up. That’s one of the strengths of the team, that we aren’t over reliant on one player. Obviously we have an outstanding forward, but on any given day there are plenty other players who can carry the can too.”
While an Ulster title would be great boost, Fermanagh’s main goal this season will be getting to Croke Park for and All-Ireland Junior final. The All-Ireland race is essentially a different competition, but going into that with the Ulster crown stowed in the trophy cabinet would certainly see Fermanagh going into that competition with a pep in their step.
“We are in a good run of form at the moment,” said Garrity. “We’re playing very good football. We’re winning in a variety of ways. The last day out [against Antrim in the Ulster semi-final] we won with a bit to spare. Then when you think back to the league final and semi-final we ground out victories. We want to keep that going, winning any way we can. Taking that into the All-Ireland would be an important thing to do.”
Garrity readily admits that going the whole way in the All-Ireland series has been laid down as a definite target for this group of players. That ambition has helped foster a strong sense of purpose in the squad.
“That’s very much in our planning. We would be hopeful that when the time comes that we will be one of the teams at Croke Park. At the same time we’re not looking any further than the Ulster Championship. That in itself is enough incentive to keep the numbers at training good. That’s never been a problem this season. There hasn’t been a session where we haven’t had really good attendance. Everyone is pushing for places on the team.”
“County girls are exempt from the nine-a-side competition so we had a get together last weekend. Their focus is firmly with the county at the moment. We’re just homing in on the performance and trying to make sure we get it right on the day.”
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