You don’t have to be the ‘Brain of Britain’ to know that Fermanagh are going to have to step up on their preliminary round performance against Antrim, if they are to challenge Donegal, in Sunday’s big game in Ballybofey.
That is the frank assessment of Fermanagh manager, Pete McGrath, when asked about Fermanagh’s double score, 2-12 to 1-6, victory over the Ulster minnows in Brewster Park.
The Erne County led that game 0-9 to 0-2 at half-time, and had the game more or less won by the halfway mark before allowing Antrim back into the tie, in a more evenly contested second half.
“Yes, it would not take the brain of Britain to realise that how we played against Antrim, okay it got the job done on the day, but that would not suffice to really challenge and push Donegal,” said the double All-Ireland manager with his native Down.
“We have talked about that and we realise that and in the interim since the Antrim game we have been working hard and trying to get players up to the next level which they would need to be at for Donegal.
“And I have no doubt they will be at that level and that is always the challenge facing any manager to try and find ways for continuous improvement.
“Donegal are still a formidable team. If you are going to make a short list of the top six teams in the country, Donegal would be on most people’s top six,” the Fermanagh boss insisted .
“We know the challenge that faces us and we know what Donegal will bring to the table and we are focussing on ourselves and what we hope to do and how we hope to deal with the threats that Donegal will bring.”
The Fermanagh boss may not have been happy with his team's second half performance in the immediate aftermath of the nine point victory. He even described his team of suffering a ‘power cut’ in the second half.
But in reality, he argues that it was the ideal situation as long as the result was a positive one.
“I think if you ask any manager in regard championship football the ideal situation is where you win a match and yet you know the team are capable of playing an awful lot better,” said the Erne boss.
“Things happen in the course of a game that give you plenty to work on. Plenty of things that you can show players that were not good enough and that they are going to have to improve on.
“My belief always has been in championship football that you always have to improve as you progress to a second round or a final. If your team is not improving, if the graph is not rising, if you cannot see players as a unit performing better then there is nothing surer than that you will come unstuck.
“What you don’t want is going out and putting on a perfect display in the first game and maybe beating the opposition by 15/16 points and you say how do we improve on this.
“We were happy to win the match and in the second half of the game we did lose our way. We did maybe take the foot off the pedal and Antrim certainly came back into the game and I give them credit for that.
“But to win the game and to know there is plenty more to work on and plenty improving to be made and plenty more to come, that was probably the ideal situation for us after that particular game.”
The wily Down man, recognised as one of the most astute manager in the game for the best part of the last three decades, is happy with his team’s preparations.
“There has been a nice timeframe between the two matches; by the time the game comes around we will have a four week break.
“It has been a nice timeframe, a nice window to get some good solid work done and the boys also got in two rounds of club matches which didn’t do them any harm. And we have no major injuries and as we go forward to the game we are in pretty robust health and we are under no doubt of the challenge that faces us.
“But it is Ulster championship and ask any team manager, ask any player, every game does represent a challenge, every games does represent a serious obstacle and you have to prepare accordingly.
“I would like to think we have done that and we know what lies ahead.
“We have a panel of 36 players and like all panels we have a number of key players that we could not do without and thankfully they are all fit and well and we have no major worries on that front.”