After his first win as Donegal manager, Rory Gallagher warned the chances of a second might be hampered by his native county.
Gallagher, from Belleek, was only permitted to bring his panel, whom had lost 2-9 to 0-12 against Kerry in September’s All-Ireland final, back to training in late December.
In the interim, sides like yesterday’s opponents Fermanagh had the chance to hit their stride.
“I know from talking to people at home they’re putting in a massive effort,” Gallagher said of Fermanagh after Donegal’s 2-16 to 1-8 victory over Queen’s in Ballybofey last Sunday week.
“They’ve been back training before most teams and there’s a big push.”
Yesterday at Fr Tierney Park in Ballyshannon, there was a ‘big push’ from Fermanagh to seal their place in the semi-final of the Dr McKenna Cup.
Peter McGrath’s team trailed 0-11 to 0-3 after Frank McGlynn had opened the second half scoring.
Fermanagh fought their way back to lose by the minimum, 0-12 to 2-5, and learned after the tills had been totalled at the end of day’s taking that they topped Section B and had progressed.
Those extra few sessions Fermanagh have undertaken in the depths of winter served them well.
Donegal, for their part, still posted the win - so effectively everyone went off into the chilly, dusking Ballyshannon evening happy enough.
“We’re delighted to win, but we’re very disappointed with the second-half display,” Gallagher said outside Aras Aoidh Ruadh.
“We put ourselves into a very strong position by half-time. We should have been further ahead.
“Fermanagh were always going to come back at us and we visibly tired. We hung on a wee bit at the end.”
John Joe Doherty lifted the Dr McKenna Cup as Donegal manager in 2009 and 2010 but then failed to win an Ulster championship match .
Jim McGuinness, on the other hand, never saw one of his teams progress past the first round of the January competition yet reached four successive Ulster finals.
Therefore, the Dr McKenna Cup should really carry some sort of health warning to illustrate its side-effects.
For a while, with Donegal eight ahead of Fermanagh and Derry on their way to a home loss against Queen’s, Gallagher’s team were the side in possession of the chair as the music was playing.
“We had put ourselves in a position to qualify and we’d have taken two wins at the start,” he added of Donegal’s campaign.
“I was a wee bit worried near the end – I wouldn’t have liked to have come away with a draw. It’s nice to win.
“Clearly Fermanagh were in a lot better shape than we were and they finished the game stronger.
“We did a very heavy week’s training and we knew there would be heavy legs.”