Fermanagh’s Division Two existence hanging by a thread after thumping by Louth

Sam Mulroy’s 2-5 gives Wee county 24-point win and leaves Ernenmen with work to do against Cavan

Sam Mulroy emerged as one of the best footballers in the country under Mickey Harte and Gavin Devlin Picture: Seamus Loughran.
Captain Sam Mulroy led the way for Louth in their win over Fermanagh, scoring 2-5

Fermanagh’s survival prospects took an almost fatal bashing in Ardee on Saturday afternoon as they lost for the fourth consecutive League match, dropping into the Division Two relegation places ahead of their final round clash with Ulster rivals Cavan.

Kieran Donnelly’s team were abject in succumbing to a 24-point defeat against Louth, who started the day below the Erne men but now face already demoted Kildare this weekend knowing a third win of the term would guarantee they remain in the second tier.

With Cork confirming their Division Two status for next year by beating Meath, Louth, who had five different goalscorers and led by 4-6 to 0-6 at half-time, are now the only side Fermanagh can catch in order to prevent an immediate return to Division Three.

The boys in green were architects of their own downfall in so many ways.

Goalkeeper Ross Bogue spent a greater portion of the opening 10 minutes pushed up in the middle third as Fermanagh probed for scoring chances but their high turnover count and slowness to get set defensively cost them dearly.

Louth captain Sam Mulroy, who amassed 2-3 of his 2-5 haul from play, capitalised on nine minutes when intercepting a poor pass back to Bogue before shooting to the unguarded net from beyond the 45-metre line.

That opened up a 1-3 to no-score gap and though the visitors responded with four unanswered points, and almost found the net when Joe McDade’s punched effort narrowly missed the target, their porous rear-guard was leaking opportunities which Louth gleefully took.

Peter Lynch, Mulroy and Conor Grimes all raised green flags in the 10 minutes before half-time, giving the Wee county a 4-6 to 0-6 advantage, which they extended swiftly when the match resumed via the returning Ciarán Downey, Grimes and Ciarán Keenan.

“We countered quite quickly and capitalised on most of Fermanagh’s errors in the first half,” said home manager Ger Brennan.

“What’s most pleasing is that we were able to keep concentration bar one or two silly shots in the second half.”

They brought their goal tally to half-a-dozen inside 60 seconds approaching the half’s midway mark when Downey and Tom Jackson sent low drives past Bogue, who later denied Leonard Grey with a fine stop.

Substitutes Fionán O’Brien and Diarmuid King provided consolation registers during a lifeless last quarter, while Seán Cassidy and Ultan Kelm offered some resistance as well, but Louth continued to exploit yearning gaps in Fermanagh’s defence as Lynch, Tommy Durnin, Ryan Burns and Downey all added points from play.

“We’re still in a relegation battle,” added Brennan.

“I don’t think we’re that much better than Fermanagh. You’d have to feel for Kieran Donnelly and his team. Both Louth and Fermanagh have been on very similar trajectories over the previous five rounds and going into round seven, we’re both still in it. If we were to play Fermanagh next week, I don’t think the scoreline would be the same.”

A disappointed Donnelly was unavailable for comment after the match as he and his players quickly made their departure from DEFY Páirc Mhuire.

Stopping the rut against their Breffni neighbours will be a tall order on this evidence.

LOUTH: N McDonnell; P Lynch (1-1), D Campbell (0-1), D McKenny; L Grey, A Williams, C McKeever; T Durnin (0-1), C Downey (1-3); C Grimes (1-2), S Mulroy (2-5, 0-2f), C Murphy; R Burns (0-1), C Keenan (0-3), T Jackson (1-0). Subs: D Corcoran for McKenny (51), L Jackson for T Jackson (51), W Campbell for C Murphy (59), J Hughes for Burns (53), N Sharkey for Grey (66).

FERMANAGH: R Bogue; L Cullen, C Cullen, O Smyth; D McCusker (0-1), S McGullion (0-1), R McCaffrey; B Horan, J McDade; C McGee, C McShea, J Largo-Elis; U Kelm (0-1), G Jones (0-3, 3f), S Cassidy (0-3, 1f). Subs: F O’Brien (0-1) for Largo-Elis (HT), D King (0-1) for McCaffrey (44), C Love for Jones (50), J McMahon for McCusker (50), J Cassidy for Smyth (70).

REFEREE: S Hurson (Fermanagh).