Fermanagh take on familiar foes

Here we go again, Fermanagh lock horns with Antrim this Sunday at Glenavy in a third championship encounter this year, and a fifth time since January. As it stands it’s three wins from four for the Erne girls, but Jonny Garrity and his players are still stinging from their Ulster final loss.
Having beaten the Saffrons in the national league final, an improved second half display in the Ulster decider edged Sean O’Kane’s Antrim side to the Ulster title.
The complexities of the ladies leagues and JFC mean teams in the junior grade tend to clash often. Fermanagh, Derry and Antrim make up an all Ulster group, group A has Carlow, Louth and London.
After the first round it’s advantage Antrim after they beat Derry by two points in their opening game, another win will assure them of a last four spot. Louth opened Group B with a big win over Carlow and many expect the Wee County to make the final after losing heavily to Limerick last year. The top two in each group will contest the all-Ireland semi-finals.
Jonny Garrity admits that this Sunday’s trip up the M1 will be another stern test of his side.
“We know each other so well, but that said we have really enjoyed our battles against Antrim side up till now. This game should be another one to remember.”
Still in his first term in the Erne hot-seat Garrity wants a performance from his side this weekend after the disappointment of the Ulster final.
“They came out on top last time, and fair play to them for a much improved second half performance on the day, but for us, as always, our focus is on ourselves, we want to ensure we produce the performance this time.”
Caitlin Taggart top scored for Antrim in a tight first group game, the loss of Taggart and Emma Kelly in the latter stages failing to halt their progress to the win and this week O’Kane will be boosted with the return of Captain Saoirse Tennyson, Aine Tubridy, Mairead Cooper, Niamh Enright as well as the netballing Magee sisters Emma and Michelle.
Fermanagh manager Garrity feels his side have learned from the Clones loss.
“We have been working hard to improve in the areas that went wrong last day. We are undoubtedly a stronger team now for that experience. We look forward to implementing the various things we have been working on. This is a big game for us.”
Paul Crozier and his Derry back room team will make the trip to Glenavy on Sunday, but Garrity is giving no though to  the final group game just yet. The focus is only on Antrim.
“The immediate target for us is to gain qualification from the group stage to the semi-finals,” said the Fintona man. “We know what is required to get there, and all our effort is going in to making that happen. We have to get a win this weekend.”
Going into the game Fermanagh are in a good place according to Garrity. He has an experienced squad who know what it takes to get over the finish line and those casting a critical eye over the teams in the championship feel the Erne girls are one of three teams with the quality to win it out, the others being Louth and Antrim.
Fermanagh have a clean bill of health ahead of this trip and the manager was quick to praise the work done by his medical team in ensuring players are available for this opener.
“We have a full squad to choose from apart from an ongoing injury to Shauna Murphy. We have been quite fortunate with injuries, but a lot of credit must go to our medical team of Roisin and Emma,” said Garrity who will expect big games from some key personnel.
Captain Joanne Doonan and Roisin Gleeson have been performing well this season while the scoring threat of Eimear Smyth and Doonan make Fermanagh a potent attacking threat. Garrity and his players have their homework done, the question is can they pass the test.

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