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Things are looking up for Daly and Fermanagh ladies

Things are looking up for James Daly and Fermanagh ladies football. After a tumultuous start, Daly has welcomed back more players in the past week as he strengthens his squad ahead of the opening round of the National League, this Sunday.

Scoring supremo Eimear Smyth has returned along with Sarah McCarville from Aghadrumsee and Aisling O’Brien from Devenish. 

This now brings the number of players to eight, who would’ve been on Fermanagh’s starting fifteen last season.

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Last week, Daly told the Fermanagh Herald that Shannon McQuade, Sarah Britton, Eimear Keenan, Molly McGloin and Niamh McManus were all back in the fold and with news of three more experienced players having returned, the Armagh man is feeling a lot more optimistic about the season ahead.

“Things have definitely improved” says Daly, “I would say we’re at a place now where we’ll compete.”

The signs looked ominous in the early part of his tenure after a dispute between players and the Fermanagh Ladies County Board resulted in a player walkout ultimatum being issued late last year but Daly says that while he hasn’t the full compliment of players, he’s still hopeful of getting a few more back on board.

“You take a job and you want to be as positive as you possibly can and I knew there were issues, I didn’t realise they were as bad as they were and then you’re thinking to yourself, my God, we could be the laughing stock here if we don’t get ourselves sorted out, but no, I think we’re good, I think we’re okay.

“There’s still girls not in and I’d love to see the two Murphy’s (Erin and Courteney), they’re not in yet but I’m positive I could get them in. They’ve had a long, long season with Kinawley and maybe need a bit of a break to charge the batteries and then we might get them in.”

Another Kinawley player who Daly would like to have is Roísín O’Reilly. The talented midfielder was awarded player of the match in the Ulster Intermediate club final and would bring much needed experience to the current set up.

Other experienced players who are not in the reckoning at the present time are Aisling Maguire from Devenish and goalkeeper Shauna Murphy from Enniskillen Gaels.

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He has however retained the the services of Derrygonnelly’s Eimear Smyth, the prolific forward is a huge plus and Daly knows that.

“I knew all about Eimear Smyth but I hadn’t seen her playing that much and she went on last week for 40 minutes and she scored 2-06. I’ve managed at a lot of different levels and the quality of this girl to me is Aimee Mackin type quality, she’s a serious, serious player.”

Fermanagh has also been bolstered by the return of the Bogue sisters Bláithín and Cadhla as well as Cliodhna McElroy and Laura Grew who Daly says have really “stepped up in the last number of weeks and are looking good.”

Leitrim beat Fermanagh last year in the the opening round of the league, snatching a victory with a late free kick after Fermanagh had dominated the first half in particular.

The Erne ladies missed two penalties that day and it was certainly a game they should’ve won in Ballinamore.

Daly’s side did however play Leitrim in a challenege match, their first of the season and in his words they were “hockeyed” and whilst their strength in depth has improved since then he is expecting a huge challenge on Sunday;

“They are an intermediate team and I would say they’re probably favourites to come out of division four .We’re confident in our ability that we can compete with them this time.

“We’ve done a lot of work with the girls in putting together a game plan of how we can maximise the ability we have in our team.

“It’s good, it’s coming together and when you have the firepower that we have up front in Blaithin (Bogue), Eimear (Smyth), Lauren (Grew), Cliodhna (McElroy) and Niamh McManus and the likes, my biggest thing now would be sorting a good solid defence of the goals because I know that when we get the ball the other side of the field, we will score.”

Nothing other than getting a win will be in Daly’s mind come Sunday.

“I’ve never gone out without the thought of winning and it’s up to us to set up against them that we can play our game and stop them from playing their game. They (Leitrim) have realistic ambitions of winning but so do we.”

Fermanagh played Donegal in a challenge match in Bundoran on Sunday past and while Maxi Curra nput a second string outfit out, the Fermanagh ladies won and Daly will be hoping that stands them in good stead come the weekend as he promises to “throw a few shapes and a few suprises along the way.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA