National Football League Division Three promotion play-off: Offaly v Fermanagh (today, Bord Na Mona O Connor Park, 6pm)
WELL, you can’t say that Fermanagh League campaigns are boring affairs anyway. For the sixth time in seven seasons, the Erne county finish off with a game that will decide where they play the following year as they meet Offaly in a Division Three promotion play-off.
Admittedly there was always going to be a division-defining game at the end of this year’s shortened season, but last-day drama has been a staple of their spring football ever since a boring old nothing-on-the-line draw with today’s opponents back in April 2014.
Maybe it was because it was played in the autumn air, but last year proved the exception as their Division Two relegation had been confirmed prior to round seven of that pandemic-impacted expedition.
The previous six seasons have brought two promotions, two relegations, a gutsy draw with Tyrone to stay in Division Two and a defeat to Meath that saw their chances of Division One football for the first time since 2007 drift away.
They will attempt to add another promotion to the mix as they face the Faithful county in Tullamore in front of a sparse home crowd this evening.
Fermanagh’s progression to this point rests on two key moments, the first of those in their opening-round 0-15 to 0-14 win over Cavan at Brewster Park.
Two points down and deep into stoppage time, the Breffni county got a free right in front of goals, but were told by referee Martin McNally that they would have one more play if they opted for the point rather than try to pick a spot past 12 Fermanagh players on the line.
After raising the white flag, Chris Snow sent the resulting kick-out to the stand side where Cavan out-numbered Fermanagh players five to three. However, Eoin Donnelly got a vital flick to the ball and Ciaran Corrigan showed great battling spirit to pick up the break before he was fouled. Game over.
After a hammering at the hands of a rampant Derry, Ryan McMenamin’s side were back in Enniskillen to face Longford knowing they could be involved in a promotion or relegation fixture depending on how the Division Three North games finished that day.
They were staring a Division Four play-off in the face as they trailed by a point in the 75th minute, but up stepped Sean Quigley and he showed good instincts to punch Ultam Kelm’s pass over the bar rather than trying to field the ball. The draw earned Fermanagh a top-two spot.
Quigley plays his 100th game for his county tonight and it’s fair to say that his return to the panel this season has been the key reason why their fortunes have changed, especially with such wafer-thin margins.
The Roslea man was a joy to watch against Cavan as he stroked over nine points including three from play. Seven points against Derry and 1-8 in the Longford game means that he has now hit just over 64 per cent of Fermanagh’s scores.
There is another boost as Donnelly looks set to be passed fit having missed the Longford game through injury.
Offaly are under the guidance of John Maughan, someone Erne fans – well those over 35 or so - will know well as he took charge of the Ulster side for a season 20 years ago. He also had a say in Fermanagh’s biggest day as his Mayo side edged them out in the 2004 All-Ireland semi-final replay.
The Leinster side topped their group with wins over Wicklow, Limerick and Tipperary. They enter as slight favourites, but Fermanagh can seal a Division Two return. It probably won’t be boring.