DR McKENNA CUP GROUP B
Fermanagh made it three wins from three and booked their place in the McKenna cup semi-final against Tyrone with an authorative display against the 2015 Ulster finalists. With Michael Murphy restricted to a point and the hosts coming to dominate midfield exchange during the second half, it was an impressive victory for the Erne men.
Fermanagh boss Pete McGrath was understandably delighted with the result.
“We played some really really good football, took some great scores and matched and eventually surpassed Donegal in terms of sheer endeavour, energy, resilience and the will to win,” said McGrath.
“Our players showed great hunger, desire and appetite for the game. We missed three or four reasonably good scoring opportunities in the early stages of the second half. That could have deflated us, but it didn’t. We kept plugging and the scores came. It was just appetite all over the field and the desire and positive character and that’s hopefully going to take us a long way down the road this year.”
The first half was an entertaining tussle on a crisp evening. First blood went to Fermanagh after two minutes. Fermanagh’s Ciaran Flaherty roasted Eamon Doherty before setting Eoin Donnelly free and he fisted over an easy chance.
There were six minutes gone before the visitors got off the mark with Odhran Mac Niallais sending over an elegant right foot shot from close to right endline to tie it up.
Two minutes later Ciaran Thompson had Donegal in the lead splitting the posts with a lovely effort from the left wing.
It was a game where the blanket defence was much in evidence and after that the scores arrived at a more sedate pace.
With 11 minutes gone Barry Mulrone started a move marked by quick hands which ended with Ciaran Flaherty slicing a shot inside the left post off the outside of the boot. A quality finish from the Belcoo man.
It was a good 35 minutes for Paul McCusker as he forced two impressive precision dispossessions in a short spell. Indeed after perhaps giving Donegal a touch too much respect in the early stages, Fermanagh upped the work rate and with 14 minutes gone Martin O’Reilly shot wide after Donegal invested an extended spell in recycling possession.
Fermanagh doubled the impact of that blow when Sean Quigley sent over a sublime sideline ball from 24 metres up the stand side to the raucous cheers of the home support.
However over the course of seven minutes Donegal put on a scoring spurt which took them into a two point lead. First with 21 minutes gone Odhran Mac Niallais slung over a classy strike from mid range out on the right. Then five minutes later Mac Niallais makes amends for an earlier placed ball miss by powering over a free from 30 metres. Shortly after Michael Murphy started a move which Marty O’Reilly concluded by clipping over from close range as Donegal started to look like they were going up through the gears.
Fermanagh fought back well before the break though. With 30 minutes gone the struck with a slick fist passing move up the pitch which saw Paul McCusker laying off to brother Declan to slip over from the right of the posts.
Then with three minutes to the break Conall Jones won a free as he advanced menacingly towards the area. That was quickly dispatched by Sean Quigley to leave the sides all square at five points apiece at the break.
It was Fermanagh who took the initiative in the second half. Five minutes in a brilliant interception from Barry Mulrone caught the Donegal defence exposed and Eoin Donnelly made no mistake with the chance from right of the posts.
Michael Murphy answered with a free from edge of the D two minutes later, but shortly after there was a great demonstration of who was the hungrier side for this game when Barry Mulrone put in a super dispossession on Murphy.
Nevertheless Donegal managed to retake the lead, Ciaran Gillespie finishing a good spell of Donegal pressure with a well taken score.
However Fermanagh responded in perfect fashion when Sean Quigley landed a beautiful long range free from slightly to the left of the posts to tie it up again as the game moved into the last 20 minutes.
Quigley bettered that effort three minutes later firing over a sumptuous effort from a metre beyond the 45. Fermanagh continued to set the tempo and a minute later James McMahon was very brave when he saw a tough tackle coming in but fisted over just before it arrived to give Fermanagh a two point cushion
With 59 minutes gone Odhran Mac Niallais scored what was to be the visitors last score of the game with a free from 30 metres out. Thereafter it was all Fermanagh as they hit an unanswered three points to book their place in the Dr McKenna Cup last four.
Two of those fell to sub Pat Cadden. The Donagh man was obviously keen to make an impression, doing well to slice over a shot over off the outside of the left boot with ten to go. Cadden repeated dose four minutes later with an almost identical effort to put a goal between the sides
Then with two left to play the insurance score arrived from the boot of Sean Quigley, another super long range free, this one from just inside the 45.
Chris Snow; Michael Jones; Aidan Breen, Paddy McGovern; Declan McCusker (0-1), James McMahon (0-1), Damian Kelly; Eoin Donnelly (0-2), Conall Jones; Barry Mulrone, Ciaran Flaherty (0-1), Paul McCusker; Ryan Hanna, Sean Quigley (0-5, 4f, 1sl), Tomás Corrigan.
Subs: Niall Cassidy for Damian Kelly HT; Daniel Teague for Tomás Corrigan 49m; Pat Cadden (0-2) for Ryan Hanna 56m; Eoin McManus for Conall Jones 64m; Kane Connor for Declan McCusker 70m.
Yellow card: James McMahon 5m.
Peter Boyle; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eamonn Doherty; Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Caolan Ward, Martin O’Reilly (0-1); Caolan McGonagle, Hugh McFadden; Stephen McBrearty, Leo McLoone, Ciaran Thompson (0-1); Odhran Mac Niallais (0-4, 2f), Michael Murphy (0-1f), Eoin McHugh.
Subs: Frank McGlynn for Stephen McBrearty 26m, Martin McElhinney for Leo McLoone HT, Ciaran Gillespie (0-1) for Ciaran Thompson HT; Anthony Thompson for Martin McElhinney (BC) 45m; Michael Carroll for Hugh McFadden 59m; Ciaran Thompson for Caolan Ward 64m.
Black card: Martin McElhinney 45m.
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)
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