Fast-starting Fermanagh claim victory over Antrim at Corrigan Park
Ulster Minor Football Championship quarter-final
Antrim 0-8 Fermanagh 2-8
GOALS at the beginning of each half proved the difference as Fermanagh overcame Antrim at a sunny and breezy Corrigan Park on Saturday evening.
Achlin O Cathain goaled in the eighth minute for the Ernesiders, with Oisín Jackson raising the green flag just 15 seconds after the restart o leave Antrim chasing the game. Their cause was further hampered by the dismissals of Ciaran O'Neill and Conor Morris on second yellow cards.
Fermanagh manager, Philip O'Connor was naturally delighted with the win, but believes there is room for improvement going forward.
"We knew it was going to be tough here, especially after the league game," he said.
"In the league game, we had plenty of the ball and let them back in with goals.
"Today, the plan was to not concede any goals and we did that. At times we gave the ball away cheaply and that kept Antrim in the game. If we were better with possession, we probably would have won a lot better than what we did."
It was a slow start with both sides off target with early chances, but on eight minutes the first score arrived and that was Fermanagh's opening goal when Joe McDade cut through the middle and passed to O Cathain who poked the ball to the net.
The hosts could have responded in kind straight after, but Josh Horan made a superb block on Ciaran O'Neill.
The visitors were on top and a pair of scores from Darragh McBrien saw them lead by five midway through the half before Antrim finally got on the board 16 minutes in from an O'Neill free.
This set them on their way and they began to take control, clawing back the deficit to level the game when Callum Fitzpatrick kicked the second of his two points of the half.
However, Fermanagh edged ahead in injury-time with a Conor Love free to take a 1-3 to 0-5 lead into the break.
The Erne side enjoyed a dream start to the second period. Playing with the breeze at their backs, they went long into McBrien who slipped the ball to Jackson. He rounded Antrim goalkeeper, Luke Mulholland and cracked the ball home.
Love then thumped over a 45 to give them a five-point lead once again, but Antrim stuck to the task with scores from Eoin Hynds and Danann McKeogh.
However, their task became more difficult on 46 minutes when McKeogh was given a second yellow for trailing down Love. O Cathain tapped over the resultant free.
On 53 minutes, Morris received a second booking for taking out Ronan McHugh off the ball. This sealed Antrim's fate as Fermanagh had acres of space, and points from McBrien, Gareth McGovern and Rian McGovern sealed their win with Fergal Henry's late score for Antrim a mere consolation.
"We were in the game in the first half and gave away the goal at the start of the second half, which didn't help," said Antrim selector Peter McKeever.
"After the two red cards, we fell apart in the last 15 minutes.
"We were in and out of the game, but we'll have another go in a few weeks' time in the Qualifiers and see where we're at."
Having lost in their three previous meetings against Antrim in recent years, this was an especially sweet win for Fermanagh who now can look ahead to a semi-final in two weeks' time.
"We said before, Antrim have beaten us in the Championship over the last number of years, so it was something we wanted to target," added O'Connor.
"This was a must-win game and I thought we put in a trojan effort.
"That would have been the biggest game some of these lads have played, so to get a win is a huge positive for Fermanagh football."
Antrim: L Mulholland; G Downing, E Mervyn, R Murray; D Gough, D McAteer, M Munce; J Summersgill, E Hynds; O Doherty (0-1), C Fitzpatrick (0-2), C Morris; C O'Neill (0-1 free), B Rodgers (0-1), D McKeogh (0-1). Subs: F Henry (0-1) for D Gough (41), S McKay for J Summersgill (50), T Skillen for B Rodgers (59).
Fermanagh: S McNally; C Green, J Horan, G McGovern (0-1); R McGovern (0-1), A McManus, R McHugh; D Hill, J McDade; O Jackson (1-0), D McBrien (0-3, 1 free), D Burke; C Love (0-2, 1 free, 1 45), A O Cathain (1-1), F Quinn. Subs: A Tierney for D Burke (38), A McHugh for J McDade (46), L McKeown for R McHugh (60).
Referee: Martin Conroy (Tyrone)