Derry 3-13, Fermanagh 1-10
The introduction of half-time substitute Mark Lynch helped Derry produced a much improved second half to eventually see off Fermanagh by nine points in difficult conditions in Celtic Park.
Pete McGrath’s visitors had dominated the first 35 minutes against a disjointed Derry side who struggle to hold possession.Crucially, though Fermanagh would only take a one point lead into the break and once the Oak Leafers got their noses in front with 1-2 in 90 seconds, they never looked back.
In very difficult conditions, it was the visitors who started better. Deploying both Barry Mulrone and James McMahon as sweepers, Pete McGrath’s side adapted better to the conditions early on with Sean Quigley scoring a delightful point with his first touch and Ruairi Corrigan doubling the lead after he elected to take a point despite being sent clear on goal by Tomas Corrigan.
Emmet Bradley reduced the deficit with an audacious score from wide on the left but having passed up one goal, chance Corrigan didn’t have to wait long for his second and this time he hit the net in some style after a mistake from Derry’s Ciaran Mullan.
Under little pressure, Mullan took a loose sol which presented possession to Paul McCusker who in turn sent Corrigan clear. This time Corrigan sized up Thomas Mallon in the Derry goal, side-stepped the keeper and shot home for a 1-02 to 0-01 lead.
A Ryan Bell reduced the deficit but Derry were struggling to cope with the Fermanagh runners with half-back Declan McCusker in particular enjoying the freedom of the Celtic Park pitch.
Despite this, a James Kielt free and a Conor McAtamney point on the end of a sweeping Derry move saw Derry bring the game back to 0-04 to 1-03 only for McCusker to stretch the Fermanagh lead with a point hat could have been a goal had he had the confidence to continue his run through a non-existent Derry defence.
Derry needed a lifeline and Benny Heron provided it with a superb goal. Karl McKaigue and Neil Forester deserve much of the credit for dispossessing Quigley and sending James Kielt away but from there the Kilrea man was superb, swapping passes before sending Heron away on the left. It wasn’t an easy chance but Heron’s fierce finish made little of a difficult angle and from nowhere, Derry led by 1-4 to 1-03 with 25 minutes on the clock.
A Quigley free levelled but the goal proved a confidence boost for Barton’s men and they began to look more secure against the hard-working Erne side. Kielt , from a free, edged Derry in front again only for Tomas Corrigan to equalise again as the sides went tit-for-tat. It was only fitting the half finished with a Fermanagh score as full-back Aidan Breen found himself in unfamiliar territory after breaking three tackles to send his team in at the break leading 1-06 to 1-05.
Derry introduced Mark Lynch at half-time with Ryan Bell dropping to midfield to replace McAtamney while Ryan Jones was brought on for the visitors in place of Ciaran Flaherty.
The second half began as the first ended, with a Fermanagh score as Tomas Corrigan knocked over a lovely free only to see Kielt (free) and Bell bring the home team level at 1-07 a-piece.
The game then turned with Derry’s second goal. Already looking a much more secure outfit since the interval, when Emmet Bradley sent a high ball in toward goal, Lynch did superbly to touch it down under pressure, O’Boyle the first the react to fist the ball into the empty Fermanagh net.
With McGrath’s team still reeling, Derry twisted the knife with points from Lynch, following a lovely Christopher Bradley pass, and Bell manufacturing a five point lead inside 90 seconds.
Fermanagh were visibly shaken have dominated much of the game to that point and never recovered as Derry took a stranglehold of the game. Frees from Kielt and Lynch reaffirmed their home side’s control before Bradley scored a superb long range point from wide along the left hand touchline to leave Derry 2-12 to 1-07 up with 56 minutes on the clock.
Quigley’s 59th minute point, from a well worked short free, was the visitors first point from play in the second half but almost immediately Derry had a third goal when Christopher ‘Sammy’ Bradley’s centre was attacked superbly by the Banagher player who forced it over the line for 3-12 to 1-08.
Derry strolled through the remaining minutes to register a victory that had looked unlikely for much of the game.
Derry: Thomas Mallon; Karl McKaigue, Chrissy McKaigue, Ciaran Mullan; Neil Forester, Gareth McKinless, Ciaran McFaul; Emmet Bradley (0-2), Conor McAtamney (0-1); Conor Kearns, James Kielt (0-4, 4f), Benny Heron (1-0); Daniel Heavron, Cailean O’Boyle, Ryan Bell (1-3, 1f). (Subs) Christopher Bradley (0-1) for C Kearns, 29mins; Mark Lynch (1-2, 1f) for C McAtamney, H/T; Mark Craig for N Forester, 43mins; Shane Heavron for B Heron, 46mins; Daniel McKinless for E Bradley, 65mins; Joe Morgan for G McKinless, 69mins
Fermanagh: Christopher Snow; Mickey Jones, Aidan Breen (0-1), Che Cullen; Declan McCusker (0-1), James McMahon, Damian Kelly; Eoin Donnelly, Conall Jones; Barry Mulrone, Ruairi Corrigan (1-1), Paul McCusker; Ciaran Flaherty, Sean Quigley (0-2, 1f), Tomas Corrigan (0-3, 3f). (Subs) Ryan Jones for C Flaherty, H/T’; Eoin McManus for C Jones, 55mins;Ryan Hanna (0-1) for R Corrigan, 63mins;
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo).