Preview: Ulster SFC - Monaghan v Fermanagh
Saturday May 20
Ulster SFC Preliminary Round
Monaghan v Fermanagh, Clones, 7pm
By Cian O'Connell
Following the disappointment of the 2016 Championship, Monaghan enjoyed an Allianz Football League campaign that was both restorative and satisfactory.
Gutsy performances were delivered, Jack McCarron stayed injury free to supplement Conor McManus inside. Suddenly Monaghan possess two genuine scoring threats, while the form and relevance of Gavin Doogan shouldn’t be underestimated either.
From the opening Saturday night in the League against Mayo, Doogan was a key figure for Monaghan, who will treat Fermanagh’s challenge with care.
Considering the manner in which Pete McGrath’s team has developed during the past couple of years dropping to Division Three was a setback.
Teams such as Westmeath have responded in the summer following relegation so Fermanagh will still feel that they can take a scalp or two.
The Championship draw was tough on Fermanagh a year ago – they lost to Donegal up north before crashing out of the Qualifiers against Mayo at Elverys MacHale Park.
Fermanagh were seriously competitive in that match and McGrath knows exactly what is required to operate at this level.
“We have a couple of injuries, Ruairi Corrigan is unavailable, he hasn't played at all,” McGrath says about who isn’t available for this weekend’s opener.
“He got a serious shoulder injury in the Intermediate County Final last year for his club Kinawley so he didn't feature at all in the League and won't be featuring against Monaghan.
“Deccie McCusker sustained a hand injury in the first League match for his club a couple of weeks ago, it is looking like he might be out. Ryan Jones is a major doubt as well. Apart from those three everyone else is available.
“You pick up the paper every day and all you see is so and so is out from every county team, it is a race against time with injuries. That is par for the course at this time of the year, we are no different than anyone else.”
McGrath is adamant that Fermanagh can summon a passionate performance to trouble Monaghan, Ulster champions in 2013 and 2015, in Clones.
“The players who are fit and are in good shape have worked hard,” McGrath states. “They are the ones that matter and they have improved quite dramatically over these past six weeks since the League.
“The mental preparation has been good, the focus has been very, very strong. I think all the players and management are ready to meet the challenge.”
Sean Quigley remains Fermanagh’s finisher in chief up front with Barry Mulrone and Eoin Donnelly capable of bursting forward to aid the attack.
Fermanagh are quietly optimistic about their chances; Monaghan want to respond following last year’s difficulties - an interesting game is imminent.
MONAGHAN: Rory Beggan; Fintan Kelly, Drew Wylie, Ryan Wylie; Colin Walshe, Vinny Corey, Neil McAdam; Kieran Hughes, Karl O'Connell; Gavin Doogan, Shane Carey, Dessie Ward; Conor McCarthy, Jack McCarron, Conor McManus.
FERMANAGH: Tom Treacy; Michael Jones, Che Cullen, Cian McManus; Aiden Breen, Ryan McCluskey, Conor P Murphy; Eoin Donnelly, Lee Cullen; Barry Mulrone, Ryan Lyons, Paul McCusker; Kane Connor, Sean Quigley, Tomas Corrigan.