Ultan Kelm: Fermanagh can cause some upsets in Division Two

Erne star says they will relish underdogs tag in League matches

Ultan Kelm was superb as Fermanagh saw off Cavan at Kingspan Breffni last weekend - but who will come up trumps at Croke Park. Picture by Adrian Donohoe
Ultan Kelm was Fermanagh's creative hub in their Division Two draw with Meath in Navan on Saturday
Allianz National Football League, Division Two: Meath 0-12 Fermanagh 1-9

Ultan Kelm has tipped Fermanagh to cause some ‘big upsets’ in the National League after beginning their Division Two campaign with a battling draw in Navan.

Fresh off promotion from Division Three, Kieran Donnelly’s side kicked themselves for not defeating the Tailteann Cup holders on their home turf.

Kelm was terrific throughout as a playmaker and was at the hub of their counter-attacking strategy which a young Meath side found difficult to deal with.

The visitors, who lined out with just eight of the side that exited last year's Championship against Laois, led by three approaching the hour mark but couldn't push on.

Late Meath points from Shane Walsh, Adam O'Neill and league debutant Eoghan Frayne secured the draw.

Fermanagh played out the closing minutes without the black carded Joe McDade and were fortunate that Mathew Costello failed to convert a stoppage time free for Meath to win it.

Overall, Kelm was happy with the gutsy performance and said that they will retain lofty ambitions in the league ahead of next weekend’s Round Two clash with Kildare.

“We’re probably going to go into most games as underdogs but we enjoy that,” said Kelm.

“We’ll relish that. It’s an opportunity that we feel we can make some big upsets in the league.

“You want to win every game, especially your home games so we’d like to bring it down to the last couple of games with hopes of going up.”

The former Aussie Rules prospect was excited with the quality shown by a relatively new look Fermanagh.

“There’s been a lot of boys who have stepped up this year,” said the Erne Gaels man.

“Losing two, three, four of our main players who would have started last year was a challenge.

Fermanagh have a clean bill of health for this weekend's game against Antrim, according to manager Kieran Donnelly.
Fermanagh manager Kieran Donnelly

“There’s a few boys who have to come back in too, who are injured. Those are boys that would have started last year as well. The group we had there, it will give the boys great belief to come to Navan, a lot of them making their debuts in the National League, and get a draw.”

Punishing Meath on the counter-attack when possible, Fermanagh led 1-5 to 0-5 at half-time. Sean Cassidy scored the Fermanagh goal in first-half stoppage time following good work in the buildup by Conor McShea.

A young Meath side - manager Colm O'Rourke handed out seven league debuts over the afternoon - had the wind after the break and struck four points in a row at one stage in the third quarter.

They never managed to take the lead though and Fermanagh reopened a three-point gap with scores from Oisin Smyth, Garvan Jones and Aidan Breen, 1-9 to 0-9.

The chance was there to plunder an important win but with Meath finishing strongly and Fermanagh down to 14, they took a draw in the end.

"Fermanagh set up very defensively and that's their style and that has served them well," said Meath manager O'Rourke. "It was up to us to get to grips with it and we didn't do very well on that front."

Meath: S Brennan; D Keogan, A O’Neill (0-1), M Murphy; C Caulfield, D Campion, S Coffey; J Flynn, D McGowan (0-3); E Frayne (0-5, 1f), R Jones (0-1), J O’Connor; C Hickey, M Costello (0-1, 1f), A Lynch.
Subs: S Walsh (0-1) for Costello 45-48 blood, Walsh for Lynch 50, R Kinsella for O’Connor 54, D Moriarty for Hickey 63, J Conlon for Frayne 67.
Fermanagh: S McNally; L Cullen (0-1), C Cullen, O Smyth (0-1); D McCusker, S McGullion (0-1), J Largo Ellis; B Horan, J McDade; C McGee, R McCaffrey, C McShea; U Kelm (0-1), G Jones (0-2), S Cassidy (1-2).
Subs: C McManus for McShea 2-5 blood, A Breen (0-1) for McCusker h/t, T Bogue for McGee 63, McManus for Gullion 67, D King for Cassidy 67, J Reihill for Jones 75.
Ref: J Henry (Mayo).