Chris Snow is wise to the ways of old team-mate Brian Neeson
WHEN he plunged to his near post to turn away Brian Neeson’s first-half snapshot, Fermanagh goalkeeper Chris Snow was forearmed.
The two played soccer together for Northern Ireland schoolboys a decade or so ago, so when Michael McCann fed the St John’s man towards the end of the first-half, Snow was on his toes. It was as well, too, because Neeson did attempt to conjure a goal from nothing, his shot beating the touch-tight Mickey Jones and heading in at the near post.
The Ederney man was alert to it, beating the shot away for a 45 and maintaining Fermanagh’s early six-point advantage: “He did hit it sharp. I wasn’t really expecting it, I thought he’d tip it over to get them going,” said Snow, basking in the gorgeous Enniskillen sunshine while cradling his smiling eight-month-old son JJ.
“I would have played soccer with Bam nine or 10 years ago, we’d have played for Northern Ireland schoolboys. I know him and I know he’d be cheeky enough to go for it and he has the quality to do it as well. I was happy enough to get hands on it and get it out.”
As a result, Fermanagh retained their stranglehold over Antrim heading into half-time. Leading by 0-9 to 0-2, they looked in complete control. But the home side eased off in the second-half and allowed the Saffrons to bring themselves back to within three points before Sean Quigley found the net to kill them off again.
The St Joseph’s goalkeeper admitted any of Ulster’s big guns would have put Antrim to the sword with such a comfortable half-time advantage: “If that had been Tyrone or any of the top teams, that would have been the foot down. That’s where we’ve aspirations to go. That’s something we have to look at," he added.
“Them and Donegal, when they have their foot on someone’s throat, as Pete would say, they keep it on and put it in even further. That’s something we need to learn and become a bit more ruthless.
“The scoreboard maybe didn’t reflect the second-half performance, the goal put a bit of a gloss on it. Overall, you’re through to the next round and, this time two years ago, we’d have taken it.”
There was still enough about Fermanagh’s first-half performance to warrant optimism leaving Brewster Park. Antrim had been free-scoring in winning promotion from Division Four earlier in the year, the gap between Division Two and Division Four was visible as the Saffrons scored just twice in the first-half and didn’t score from play at all until the 48th minute.
Fermanagh face the reverse now as they go to Mac Cumhaill Park to take on a Donegal side who reached the Division One semi-final in April: “Probably, Division Four and Three are quite similar and then Two is a bit above that along with the bottom two in Division One maybe, then the top six," Snow said.
"What Donegal have been playing at all year, there’s a bit of gap from what we’ve been playing at. We’re confident enough that we can go to Mac Cumhaill Park and get a result, but that performance wouldn’t be good enough to go there.
“We feel we have the quality within the camp to go and do that. Pete has said and a few players have said it, our goal is to win an Ulster Championship. The next step in it is to go to Mac Cumhaill Park and get a victory.”
Despite reaching that semi-final, Donegal have lost their last five on the spin and will have gone more than two months without a competitive game when Fermanagh visit.
“I wouldn’t read too much into that either. The quality of opposition they were playing and Donegal knew as well that they had a long layoff, they’ll be refreshed and have a lot of training done in between. They’ll be ready, I’m sure,” said Snow.