ALL IRELAND QUALIFIERS
A battling Fermanagh performance just as anticipated.
Coming into the game the Erne side had been cast in the all too familiar role of underdogs and they responded to this by delivering a splendidly stirring effort that had them within a whisker of chalking up another epic victory against the odds.
Just a frustrating point adrift of a mightily relieved Laois side at the end of an absorbing contest that ebbed and flowed all the way through.
A one point defeat and of course there is no shortage of ‘ if only’s’ in that scenario.
But at the heel of the hunt it would have to be acknowledged that the win did go to the side which did look that bit superior on the day. The side which had held the lead for the bulk of the tie.
Nevertheless this was a game which at a critical stage some seven minutes from time when the prospect of a shock Fermanagh victory was definitely on the cards.
Sean Quigley fired in a penalty goal to narrow the deficit to a single point and momentarily Laois looked in disarray.
The impetus clearly if only briefly lay with a Fermanagh side who had shown resolution right from the opening moments.
But Laois managed to fend off the Erne revival, a clutch of points had them back in a reasonably comfortable position but it was by no means a done deal.
Fermanagh were to put in a late charge and in that charge there was the sniff of what probably would have been a matchwinning goal.
Sean Quigley just unable to get a firm enough touch on a broken ball , Niall Cassidy opting to take a point.
Laois in the end just hung on by a thread.
That it came down to such a wafer thin margin was partially due to a wayward Laois attack which frittered quite a number of scoring opportunities in the opening twenty to twenty five minutes.
In that period the home side were essentially in command of matters, claiming a lot of possession around the middle of the park and spearing their way forward.
But the return on the scoreboard was minimal as their wides tally mounted.;
Fermanagh on the other hand were making the most of their more sporadic chances. Points from Sean Quigley who was to have a memorable seventy minutes overall, a volleyed score from Barry Owens and a hoofed long distance shot from Ryan Jones kept Fermanagh in the chase.
And as the game headed towards the interval, Fermanagh began to get more than a toehold on the game. Some enterprising approach play carved out openings which saw Ruairi Corrigan and Paul McCusker land excellent scores from play.
The game tied at six points each and Fermanagh then really shook matters up with their first goal.
A shot from Tommy McElroy out on the right wing arrowed right into the heart of the Laois goalmouth and in melee of backs and forwards the ball spiralled into the net for a shock goal. It was a score which indicated to Laois that this was an opposition who would not be easily dispatched.
Fermanagh however were unable to hold on to their newly won advantage until the break. Laois lacked nothing in resolution themselves and they picked off three points in the run up to the interval to level the match.
Of the two sides Fermanagh would have been much the happier with the way things had panned out over the opening thirty five minutes and with the breeze to assist them on the turnover they had everything to look forward to on the resumption.
Four points equally shared over the initial five minutes and then Fermanagh regained the lead in an explosive patch of play.
Laois were unlucky to see a Donal Kingston shot smack off the woodwork and in a rapid counter raid Fermanagh galloped downfield to snatch another excellent score from Sean Quigley and Eamon Maguire quickly added another to open up a two point lead.
Laois however didn’t allow Fermanagh to get any momentum going and they hit back in devastating fashion with a goal that their all round effort from the start of the game deserved, centre half forward Billy Sheehan having little trouble in poking home a loose ball from close range.
By this stage the game was in full spate, attack and counter attack as play surged from end to end.
Sean Quigley, after good work from Tommy McElroy fired over an equaliser to leave a scoreline of 1-11 each and we were heading for a grandstand finish.
The next few minutes belonged to Laois with Kevin Meany driving through for a well struck score, Ross Munnelly making Fermanagh pay for a possession too easily coughed up and Kingston made it a three point advantage.
The home side were back in command but they were to be badly rattled by a snap Fermanagh response. A point each exchanged and then a dramatic second goal for Fermanagh which raised every possibility of a stunning comeback.
A fluent movement eventually had substitute Brian Cox hauled down and Sean Quigley made no mistake with the kick to trim the deficit to a single point and Fermanagh were now full of belief and conviction.
Again a point each exchanged, Munelly for the home side, a feed back from the industrious Ruairi Corrigan setting up another Quigley strike.
It was going to be touch and go with Laois now grimly aware that despite being the more authoritative side there was the real possibility they could lose out.
A measure of relief for them with two scores in quick succession from centre back Paul Begley and from the powerful Kingston.
But there was to be relaxation for the pressurised home squad as they had to fend off a committed late flourish from a dogged Fermanagh with the end game almost entirely in the Laois half of the pitch.
Sean Quigley fisted on a high lob punted in but the ball zipped wide.
Fermanagh kept up the chase, Eamon Maguire kept hope alive with a score as the game moved into added on time.
Laois now just hanging in as they had to handle yet another furious Fermanagh raid which ended with a point from Niall Cassidy, perhaps the wrong option given that time was not on Fermanagh’s side.
But the resulting kick out didn’t bring the final whistle.
Another play or two left on the clock apparently but when a Fermanagh attack was forced to move sideway instead of continuing forward referee David Coldrick called a halt to what had developed into a riveting encounter.
Chris Snow; Marty O’Brien; Barry Mulrone; Niall Cassidy; Declan McCusker; Ryan McCluskey; Tommy McElroy; Eoin Donnelly; Richard O’Callaghan; Lee Cullen; Ryan Jones; Paul McCusker; Ruairí Corrigan; Sean Quigley; Barry Owens; Subs; Eamon Maguire; Mark Murphy; Brian Cox.
Graham Brody; Pádraig McMahon; Denis Booth; Peter O’Leary; Darren Strong; Paul Begley; Colm Begley; Conor Meredith; John O’Loughlin; James Finn; Billy Sheehan; Niall Donoher; Ross Munnelly; Donal Kingston; David Conway; Subs; Kevin Meaney; Stephen Attride; Colm Coss; Damian O’Connor.
Scorers; Fermanagh; S Quigley (1-8 pen; four frees); E Maguire (0-2); T McElroy (1-0);R Jones, B Owens, R Corrigan,P McCusker ,N Cassidy (0-1)
Referee; David Coldrick; An Mhí.
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