Ernemen look to make their mark in Junior Section

County Fermanagh are keen to improve on last year as they prepare to face a tough group in the Junior section.

Fermanagh is county that always tries to punch above their weight and that won’t change this year under Ciaran Black’s leadership.

The 38-year-old is eager to get the tournament going.

He said: “My expectation at the minute is can we improve from last year? That’s basically our benchmark at the minute.

Co Fermanagh’s Junior Section side met English outfit Plymouth Argyle at SuperCupNI 2023

“We have had a look at our results last year and are trying to have a go and to try and take a step forward, but we’ve got a tough group on paper.

“The reality is we don’t really have an idea of what we’re going up against, but we’ve put a good squad together.

“We’ve had a good camp so far in terms of training.

“The team is in good spirits at the minute after winning the Tyrone tournament, so they are eager to get the competition started.”

Fermanagh are another county who face three foreign opposition in the group stage, taking on Scottish giants Rangers, FC America and St Patrick’s Athletic, who were a late replacement for the Bahrain National Team.

Co Fermanagh’s Premier Section side came up against Manchester United at last year’s tournament

Black was excited by the challenge the clubs brought before the news came of Bahrain pulling out of the competition.

“The players know no matter who we face it will be a great experience,” he said.

“It’s exciting that we’re going up against the best, but we have to focus on ourselves.

“There have been Rangers academy coaches over in Fermanagh, so the players know the sorts of players they have been looking for, so we’re sort of guessing from there, these are the kind of players we’re going to be playing against.

Black believes his squad are in a great position heading into the week of football after pre-tournament triumphs in the inter-county competitions.

The Ernemen hope to make their mark on SuperCupNI 2024

He said: “We had players finishing their league campaign for their clubs after the selection process was finished so it was a tough end of the season for the players and then straight into SuperCupNI training.

“It’s been gruelling for them, but they are really stepping up now at the minute.

“It’s great to see the excitement about the place.

“The players feel like they are the team to beat after their success in the county cups in preparation for the tournament and Fermanagh hasn’t been that team in recent history so it’s a bit of a change.

“We feel like we’re the underdog but there is a different feeling about the place.”

Fermanagh’s Premier Section side took on Manchester United at Coleraine Showgrounds in SuperCupNI 2023

The head coach was keen to stress to his players how big of an occasion the tournament will be for his young players.

“They’re going to have a lot more family watching than normal so if they can react positively to that then hopefully that will give them an extra boost,” he said.

“With the draw we got they know there could even be people from their own county wearing Rangers kits at the game.

“As coaches you are nearly wanting to be in their boots but we’re lucky to be involved at all and we’re grateful for getting the opportunity to do it.”

Words from Stuart McCracken