FERMANAGH have advanced to the final of the Lory Meagher Cup, this drawn tie with Cavan at windswept Brewster Park on Sunday sufficient to earn the side their final ticket following their victory over Louth the previous week.
It was a draw chiselled out in the most demanding of circumstances in a contest that roared to a drama laced climax.
Fermanagh never held in the lead in a game which opened on a subdued enough note, certainly from the Erne perspective, but which ended on a riproaring note.
The home side had put in a laboured opening half and could have no complaint that they reached the interval four points adrift of a scoreline of 0-10 to 0-6, visiting Cavan had simply been the better side.
A point on the restart for Fermanagh but then they were dealt what looked to be a massive body when they had defender Mark Slevin redcarded.
The cause looked a forlorn one but incredibly, as is quite often the case in these situations, the depleted side simply raised the tempo and industry of their game both indivually and collectively and the side produced a stunning recovery.
They hauled themselves level around the threequarter mark, they were never to hold the lead at any stage, but then were hit another solar plexus blow when Cavan rammed in what was to be the game’s only goal.
Another challenge to be overcome but by now Fermanagh were playing with enormous resolution and commitment and deep into added on time John Duffy speared over an equalising free from quite some distance out.
But with referee Conway electing to stretch added on time well into the seventh minute Fermanagh had one more moment of intense anxiety, Cavan awarded a free some hundred metres out.
Their go to man for the long distance shots had been full forward Brian Fitzgerald who had regularly stroked over a string of scores, but this time his last ditch effort just fell short into a crammed Erne goalmouth and Fermanagh had claimed a memorable success.
From the outset a physically stronger Cavan side had looked the more purposeful outfit and they were quickly heading out into the lead, early points from Sean Keating and Cillian Shannon getting them up and running.
Sean Corrigan who was again to be Fermanagh’s most prolific scoretaker opened the home side’s response with a free but essentially it was Cavan who were calling the shots.
Over the half they basically dictated with Brian Fitzgerald striking over the frees, other scores supplied from play by Fiachre Hughes and Diarmaid Carney.
Not that Fermanagh were totally submerged but it was a case of more or less hanging in.
They did have some fine scores notched on sporadic occasions, Conor McShea moving fluently through before stiking a fine score, Caolan Duffy swivelling smartly under pressure to add another and Sean Corrigan arrowing a third.
Corrrigan in fact came close to nicking a late goal only to be denied by a fine stop from Cavan keeper Sheridan.
Four in arrears on the turnover, Fermanagh had done well to still be in the chase and they resumed brightly with Conor McShea,well fed by Caolan Duffy popping a neat score before the dismissal of defender Slevin looked to be a match defining incident.
But remarkably Cavan simply failed to capitalise and over the following ten minutes plus Fermanagh dug their way out of the hole.
By the time that the water break was reached they had added points from two Corrigan frees and a fine score from the nimble Tom Keenan, hooking over despite being closely policed.
Heading into the final quarter the impetus was now with Fermanagh and they drew level with Caolan Duffy firing over but Cavan responded immediately with a shot from Cillian Shannon the scoreboard now reading 0-12 to 0-11.
Fermanagh had to survive a couple of goalmouth melees before they raided forward for Keenan to stroke over an equaliser but Cavan promptly hit back to crack home a goal from Fiachre Hughes, the shot deflected on the way in giving keeper Curry no chance.
It looked to be the game’s crucial score but a dogged, resolute Fermanagh refused to submit and in a barnstorming finale they set about the business of rescuing that critical league point.
Two points from Sean Corrigan and a single from John Duffy but Cavan still held the lead thanks to an isolated Fitzgerald point.
So it all came down to the wire in the frantic spell of added on time, John Duffy under huge pressure with his long distance free, never a doubt about it from the moment he struck and then the tension as Fitzgerald’s last gasp shot dropped short.
Mark Curry, Dylan Bannon,Andrew Breslin, Rory Porteous, Barry McPhillips, Mark Slevin, Francis McBrien , Conor McShea (0-1), Ciaran Duffy, Shea Curran, Luca McCusker, John Duffy,(02f), Tom Keenan (0-2),Sean Corrigan (0-8 6f), Caolan Duffy ((0-2), Subs Adam McShea for S Curran, Jimmy Tormey for F McBrien,.
Darren Sheridan, Caolan Kelly, Dominic Crudden, Shane Briody, Anthony Sheridan, Enda Shalvey, Matt Hynes, Colum Shannon, Liam Og Cooke, Sean Keating, Fiachre Hughes, Diarmaid Carney, Jack Barry, Brian Fitzgerald, Cillian Shannon.
Referee Turlough Conway , Derry.
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