The fact that Antrim were drawn away to Waterford and Dublin to Cork in the qualifiers has drawn criticism during the week on the basis that weaker teams should enjoy home advantage against their more favoured opponents, but Fitzgerald said yesterday that Waterford had offered to meet their opponents — whoever they were drawn against — at a neutral venue halfway between the two counties.
“If we’d had to go Antrim we’d have had to do it and nothing said about it, long trip that it is,” said Fitzgerald. “The Waterford county board suggested before any draw was made — Galway or Antrim — that we play the other team halfway. We felt it made more sense to do that, no matter who we were playing.
“We were turned down, but so be it. We have to live with the consequences, and the venue that we got.”
The former Clare ‘keeper said he expects Antrim to be more competitive on Saturday than they were when Galway beat them well in their last outing.
“My job has been to make sure we take nobody for granted, no matter who we’re playing,” said Fitzgerald.
“I suppose the fact that Galway beat Antrim so well, you’d be afraid maybe things would creep into our lads’ heads.
“But the one thing I said to the lads was that after 25 minutes it was level, and then Antrim didn’t compete after that. I’m sure they’ll sort that out during the week and compete a lot better.”
lFermanagh's two-time All-Star and Ulster semi-final hero Barry Owens has been ruled out as a possible starter for the provincial final against Armagh on July 20.
The Teemore clubman underwent a heart operation in January and only made his return in the last four victory over Derry two weekends ago when he scored a crucial second-half goal just 30 seconds after being introduced.
“I would honestly say he will not start because it did take a lot out of him the last day,” said Fermanagh boss Malachy O'Rourke. A fit Barry Owens would obviously be an automatic starter but I think it would be asking too much of him. “
Fermanagh's main worry is Owens's nominal replacement at full-back, Hugh Brady. The 24-year lined out at number three against Monaghan in the first round but missed the Derry tie with a back injury and is rated “touch and go”.
J. English (Ballyporeen); D. Heffernan (Cappawhite), S. Russell (Lattin-Cullen), K. O’Riordan (JK Brackens); C. Sheehan (Fethard), R. Kiely (Arravale Rovers), C. Walsh (Commercials); A. Moloney (Rockwell Rovers), P. Acheson (Moyle Rovers); D. McGrath (Moyle Rovers), G. Ryan (Rockwell Rovers), D. Lowry (Arravale Rovers); C. Sweeney (Ballyporeen, capt.), P. Horan (St. Patricks), M. Dwyer (Arravale Rovers).
Subs: JP McGrath (Fethard), T. Hanley (Aherlow), B. O’Hara (Commercials), S. Boland (Moyle Rovers), E. Kendrick (Cahir), M. Hickey (do.), L. TReacy (Loughmore/Castleiney), D. Bourke (Moyne/Templetuohy), E. Fitzpatrick (JK Brackens).