Antrim's Patrick McBride bursts Fermanagh's bubble with controversial winner
Dr McKenna Cup Section B: Antrim 2-8 Fermanagh 0-13
CONTROVERSY reigned right at the death of yesterday’s engaging Dr McKenna Cup clash in Ahoghill as Patrick McBride lashed home a last-gasp free to give Antrim an unlikely one-point win.
There was debate surrounding the initial award of the stoppage-time free and a little bit more over where it was supposed to be taken from.
McBride reacted quicker than the Erne defence by accepting the referee’s invitation to move the ball forward - presumably for dissent from the opposition - before finding the top corner of the Fermanagh net.
McBride’s rasping drive in the 73rd minute was the first time the Saffrons edged ahead in the game.
As Fermanagh tried to initiate a final attack, a melee broke out between several opposition players, with Antrim’s Marc Jordan and Fermanagh’s Ciaran Corrigan receiving straight red cards for their part in the untidy end-of-match shenanigans.
Afterwards, Jordan pleaded his and Corrigan's innocence.
“We both didn’t strike," insisted the Lamh Dhearg midfielder.
"Hopefully the video will show that. There was a lot of pushing and shoving, don’t get me wrong, but there was no striking on either of our parts. We both said to the referee but he had his mind made up and I wasn’t going to argue with him."
Jordan’s late dismissal didn’t dim Antrim’s delight at the final whistle as they now eye a straight knock-out game with Down in Newry on Wednesday night to determine who progresses to the semi-finals from Section B.
The sequence of events leading up to McBride’s spectacular winner was all a bit surreal.
As Fermanagh ‘keeper Thomas Treacy was ready to launch his kick-out, referee Kevin Faloon awarded a free to the home side roughly 30 metres from Fermanagh’s goal after opposing substitutes James McMahon and Conor Murray appeared to come together in an innocuous way.
But the referee, who was well placed, penalised McMahon even though he was on the ground.
Up stepped McBride to grab his second major of the day and send the Antrim supporters home happy.
Undoubtedly Fermanagh’s long trek home yesterday evening felt longer than it should have done.
Erne boss Ryan McMenamin was miffed by the decision to punish McMahon for allegedly “diving”, which directly led to Antrim’s winning goal.
"The referee blamed James [McMahon] for diving," said McMenamin.
"We asked the referee what he did and the referee said he didn’t have to give us his opinion.
"I thought it was a wee bit arrogant. It was the first time ever a kick-out was ready to be taken and then a free in was given, and I don’t think he communicated that to the players.
"I think he moves it forward and the boy [Patrick McBride] took it on the run and not from the right place at all. You’ve a lot of questions and you think, if he didn’t take it from the right place, should it have been a hop ball?
“The referee probably messed up today, and you don’t like criticising them.”
‘Ricey’ also felt his side should have been “home and hosed” before allowing Antrim a way back into the contest. They led 0-8 to 0-4 at the break and had the same amount of daylight between themselves and their hosts approaching the final quarter.
Antrim breathed life into their challenge in the 37th minute after a flowing attacking move that went from one end of the field to the other, involving at least six players, which was neatly finished off by the dangerous McBride from close range.
New boy Mark McCauley caught the eye in the Fermanagh attack, hitting four points (0-2 frees), but the Belnaleck man should have replied with a goal immediately after McBride raised a green flag, but he fired over Antrim’s bar after a neat lay-off from the impressive Aidan Breen.
While Fermanagh appeared to have a decent enough grip on this tie, they were greatly helped by Antrim’s wastefulness.
Colm Duffin dropped one effort short midway through the second half and Aghagallon’s Ruairi McCann saw his fisted effort come off the Fermanagh upright.
Despite their territorial advantage between the 40th and 50th minutes, Antrim didn’t put anything on the scoreboard and then gifted Darragh McGurn a handy score to put the visitors 0-11 to 1-5 ahead, with Aiden Breen grabbing his second of the day moments later.
But Antrim kept chipping away as Fermanagh were reduced to 14 men following a 63rd minute black card for Aidan Breen.
Colm Duffin, Eunan Walsh and Conor Murray found their range which kept the home side in touch before McBride plundered the Fermanagh defence with that controversial winner.
Marc Jordan, James McAuley, Patrick Gallagher, Patrick McBride, Niall Delargy and young Eunan Walsh performed well in saffron, and even though Fermanagh exited the McKenna Cup yesterday, McMenamin will be content with some rookies that were road-tested including Mark McCauley, Ryan Breen and Lee Jones as well as towering full-forward Darragh McGurn who was on the periphery of the squad last season.
“It’s nice to have a win,” said Antrim boss Lenny Harbinson.
“We did reasonably well in certain elements of our play, but our transition was a bit questionable at times, giving the ball away cheaply. We’re under no illusions: in the final third there were a lot of missed opportunities which we need to work on. You’ve got to put it on the scoreboard.”
Antrim: A Hasson; B Rice, P Gallagher, C Garland; D Lynch, J McAuley, P Healy (0-1); C Duffin (0-1), M Jordan; E Walsh (0-1), P McBride (2-3, 1-0 free, 0-3 frees), F Burke; R McCann (0-1), C Small, O Eastwood Subs: R Johnstone for C Garland (h/t), N Delargy for B Rice (h/t), E Nagle for O Eastwood (45), R Scott for F Burke (49), C Murray (0-1) for C Small (70)
Yellow cards: B Rice (3), F Burke (26), P McBride (57)
Red card: M Jordan (73)
Fermanagh: T Treacy; J Cassidy, L Jones, K McDonnell; R Breen, R O’Callaghan, E Sheils; E Donnelly, S McGullion (0-1); L McStravick, A Breen (0-2), C Corrigan (0-2); M McCauley (0-4, 0-2 frees), D McGurn (0-3, 0-1 ‘mark’), T Bogue Subs: B Daly for E Shiels (34), D Teague for L McStravick (42), J McMahon for T Bogue (53), E McManus (0-1) for M McCauley (57), U Kelm for R Breen (70)
Blood substitution: B Daly for E Shiels (34, made permanent)
Yellow cards: L Jones (26), B Daly (57)
Black card: A Breen (63, didn’t return to action)
Red card: C Corrigan (73)
Referee: K Faloon (Armagh)