By Damian Campbell
A roller coaster qualifying tie at Cusack Park, Mullingar on Saturday afternoon with Fermanagh squeezing out what was a thoroughly deserved victory thanks to a dramatic point in added on time.
Unlikely source of the match winner was corner back John Woods who found himself up in support of an attack and the ‘Skea player skipped his way close enough in on goal to pop over the clincher.
Fermanagh did have one last ditch Westmeath attack to fend off in what had been a hugely entertaining battle.
Had the Erne side lost this game they would have had only themselves to hold accountable.
Over the course of a pulsating seventy minutes plus there was to be a staggering tally of twenty wides recorded, ten in each half.
And at times it really did seem that Fermanagh were going to pay the penalty for their inaccuracy.
Playing with the benefit of the crossfield breeze in the opening half the policy of shooting from distance saw a string of shots spiral high and wide.
And in the opening minutes of the second half the depressing sequence was to continue with no less than three chances spurned in the space of three minutes.
With Westmeath mounting a recovery and finally bridging the deficit with a precisely drilled penalty goal, Fermanagh were facing a prompt exit.
They hit back with their third goal but again failed to press on with a handful of more wides and this allowed Westmeath to haul themselves back into contention for a frenzied finish.
It all came right in the end as far as Fermanagh were concerned and there could be no arguing but that the better team on the day had earned the second round ticket.
Fermanagh put the disappointment of the Cavan defeat behind them and outgunned the home side for long periods of the contest. And scoring three goals went a long way to compensate for the failure to take a reasonable ratio of their points scoring opportunities.
First goal had an element of fortune about it but on the other hand the lurking presence of Sean Quigley certainly had a role as he left Westmeath keeper Gary Connaughton unsighted for Conor Quigley’s hopeful punt in.
Incidentally the refinement of the ‘square ball’ rule which has been introduced was again shown to be one of the better ideas introduced recently. No dispute whatsoever about the full forward’s presence deep in the Westmeath goal area.
One regular source of bitter dispute has been eradicated from the game.
Fermanagh’s two other goals from Damian Kelly and Ryan Jones were right out of the top drawer and any team which hits three goals in a game is going to be hard to deny.
But denied we might well have been in a frenetic finish with the team having to dig deep into their reservoir of resolution to contain Westmeath’s late surge.
Shades of the halcyon days of a decade ago when we were dispatching the likes of Meath, Donegal, Cork, Mayo were in evidence last Saturday.
Leaving aside the caveat of the inordinately lengthy list of missed shots, this was a fine Fermanagh team performance.
They led for virtually all of the contest, played with great purpose and poise and boosted by the goals they had the first division’s newest side definitely on the back foot.
Much to be enthused about and it was a result that will be fondly recalled in the future.
Perhaps no out and out outstanding individual but critically everyone chipped in more than effectively and there was a general sense of well being in the Fermanagh camp and supporters at the final whistle.
The summer of 2013, especially since we have been paired with Cavan in round two, has the prospect of even better in store.
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