Fermanagh edge out Carlow to seal place in Tailteann Cup knock-out stages

Kieran Donnelly delighted to grind out win in Netwatch Cullen Park

Experienced defender Che Cullen insists the Fermanagh players are determined to get back to Croke Park after a below-par performance in their Division Three final defeat to Cavan. Picture by Adrian Donohoe
Che Cullen scored two points in Fermanagh's win in Carlow. Picture: Adrian Donohoe

Tailteann Cup Group 3, round two

Fermanagh 1-13 Carlow 0-13

A GOOD job done and relieved to come away with the win.

This was the over-riding sentiment of Fermanagh manager Kieran Donnelly as he reflected on a hard-fought victory in Carlow on Saturday.

“We have a two-week gap which will be good. It has been an intense five weeks preparing for these games and we will probably use our time wisely,” said Kieran Donnelly.

In a tense finish, Fermanagh did just about enough to take the points and they are now guaranteed a place in the knock-out stages irrespective of how they got on against Laois in two weeks’ time.

The visitors took a 1-4 to 0-6 lead into the interval which was scarcely deserved. After hitting Carlow with a Ché Cullen point in the opening minutes, the home side hit back and dominated for long spells.

Their opponents were happy to concede the kick-out and attempted to absorb Carlow’s best efforts from deep. Another defender, Declan McCusker stretched Fermanagh’s lead but a series of wides under pressure from the home defence prevented them from making little impact on the scoreboard.

“We always knew Carlow were going to be extremely difficult to break down. They are a physical team and they can score from distance as well,” suggested Donnelly.

Ross Dunphy hit Carlow’s first point with an overhead kick when he was forced back out the field. This was an indication of how the game was played with neither side taking risks. Carlow defenders, Mikey Bambrick and Jamie Clarke both raised white flags while over the course of the game Fermanagh’s full-back Cullen and left-half back Josh Largo Elis both came forward to land two points apiece in the opening half.

Minutes before the interval, Fermanagh’s Sean Cassidy did the hard work before off-loading to Conor McShea, who threaded his way through and found the net from close range.

The second half continued much the same as the first, with both sides making errors but also picking off some nice scores.

The visitors’ replacements made all the difference with Conor Love, Jonathan Cassidy and Darragh McGurn all featuring on the scoreboard. Darragh Foley’s free-taking kept the home side in touch.

Donnelly was delighted with this aspect of the performance.

“That was good. You are always looking to push on in training and when players come off the bench and contribute, it is massive. The fact that they came on and added to the scoreboard is a big plus as we prepare in the next two weeks,” Donnelly pointed out.

Going into the final stages and again in injury-time, The Barrowsiders laid siege to the Fermanagh goal but, unlike last week, when they sucker-punched Laois, there was no late reward here.

“We showed good composure in the final 10 minutes. We had some big scores to finish and we had some good passages of play. I thought we were calm in that last 10-minute period,” said the content Fermanagh manager.

Carlow J Furey, C Byrne, M Furey, E Molloy, M Bambrick (0-1), J Clarke (0-2), C Hulton, C Doyle, R Dunphy (0-1), A Amond (0-1), P McDonnell, C Crowley, L Gavin, D Foley (0-6 5fs), C Lomax (0-1). Subs: K Murphy for Gavin (49), N Hickey for Lomax (55), J Phiri for Hulton (59), C Moran (0-1) for Byrne (59), S Buggy for Molloy (68)

Yellow card C Byrne (43)

Fermanagh S McNally, L Cullen, C Cullen (0-2), J Cassidy (0-1), D McCusker (0-1), S McGullion (0-1), J L Elis (0-2), B Horan, J McDade, C Jones, C McShea (1-0), F O’Brien (0-1), U Kelm (0-2), G Jones, S Cassidy

Subs R McCaffrey for C Jones (31), C Love (0-2 1f) for G Jones (47), D McGurn (0-1) for S Cassidy (58), A Breen for Horan (65).

Yellow card S Cassidy (43)

Referee K Eannetta (Tyrone)