Antrim at the double late on to seal Tailteann Cup quarter-final spot
Tailteann Cup Group 4, round three
Fermanagh 1-12 Antrim 3-13
ANTRIM were left reeling when Sean Quigley snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at Corrigan Park a few months back, but the Saffrons served up a measure of revenge when two late goals saw them seal a home Tailteann Cup quarter-final in a fortnight’s time.
That Quigley sucker-punch was one of a few setbacks Antrim suffered during a stuttering League campaign, Fermanagh’s winning goal at Corrigan Park coming after the Ernemen trailed by eight midway through the second half.
Some of those harsh lessons have clearly been taken on board, however, as added time goals from substitute Oisin Doherty, and then Aghagallon’s Ruairi McCann, pushed the Saffrons out on the right side of a game that to-ed and fro-ed in the suffocating Armagh heat.
There was more than a touch of good fortune about Doherty’s 73rd minute goal too, his shot at the posts ending up in the top corner of Sean McNally’s net when just a point separated the counties, but Antrim were good value for their victory after recovering from slow starts in both halves.
And with the wind of a third win in-a-row at their backs, it is this spirit that offers boss Andy McEntee plenty of encouragement as his men into the last eight.
“I'm really happy,” said the Meath man.
“You have the experience of losing those games and that's what steels you for the future. If you've suffered at the hands of Down and Fermanagh, and we did suffer as they were hard defeats to take, but you have those in the memory bank and hopefully you learn a bit from them.
“That was a hot day, we were in the next round regardless [of the result] and lads had loads of reasons to say 'not for me today' - but they didn't do that.”
The conditions were a significant factor too, with both playing keep ball when they could in a drab first half, mindful of emptying the tank too early as temperatures soared.
Level at a point apiece 12 minutes in, though, Quigley decided to take matters into his own hands. Played in near the sideline, he swung over an effort that suggested he had seen quite enough of lateral hand passes.
And a minute later it was his ingenuity that carved out a golden goal opportunity for Ryan Lyons. With Antrim at sixes and sevens, the Roslea man’s quick free found Lyons in the square. He should have buried it, though Michael Byrne was out sharpish to close down the shot, Tommy McCaffrey popping over to ensure they didn’t finish up empty-handed.
Fermanagh looked in cruise control when another Quigley score moved them 0-4 to 0-1 ahead – but, after failing to land another score for the next 20 minutes, the Saffrons finally injected a bit of pace into their play to seize the initiative.
Captain Peter Healy, Marc Jordan and the excellent Adam Loughran burst forward from deep to open up space and Antrim capitalised, a superb Healy solo effort leaving them 0-7 to 0-5 up at the break.
But Kieran Donnelly’s side came flying out of the blocks again, bagging 1-3 without reply inside the opening five minutes of the second half, Lyons – otherwise well marshalled by Cormac McGettigan – rifling low past Byrne for Fermanagh’s goal after neat build-up from Erne Gaels club-mates Ultan Kelm and Tommy McCaffrey.
All of a sudden Kelm was growing in influence, and when his classy score split the posts, Fermanagh tails were well and truly up.
Yet Antrim kept their heads and, sparked by a super Patrick McCormick score, another comeback began – an burst from exciting sub Conhuir Johnston opening the door for Loughran to slam home in the 52nd minute.
The game was there to be won heading down the straight, but it wasn’t until well into the four minutes of added time that the Saffrons settled this argument thanks to those goals from Doherty and McCann as Fermanagh pushed up, looking for the win that would have allowed a week’s grace ahead of a quarter-final.
Instead the Ernemen are out again next week – at home to a Laois side who qualified for the preliminary quarters courtesy of draws against Offaly and London.
“It will be a quick turnaround, but that’s where we have left ourselves,” said Donnelly.
“We have a squad and we are probably going to have to use that going into next weekend.
“We feel like we’ve regrouped after tough disappointments all year - Offaly, Wexford… boys were flat after that one because we felt like we felt that behind. That’s all we can control.”
Fermanagh: S McNally; L Flanagan, C Cullen; C McShea; S McGullion, J Cassidy, C McManus; B Horan, R Jones (0-1), L Cullen; R Lyons (1-0), R McCaffrey (0-1), U Kelm (0-3); T McCaffrey (0-1), S Quigley (0-4, frees). Subs: G Cavanagh for McManus (35), G Jones (0-2) for Lyons (46), C McGee for Horan (54), J Largo Elis for McGullion (64), D McGurn for Quigley (67)
Antrim: M Byrne (0-1, 45); P Healy (0-1), E McCabe; D McAleese; P McCormick (0-1), M Jordan, C McGettigan; P McBride, C Stewart, C Hynds; C McLarnon, A Loughran (1-3), R McCann (Creggan) (0-2); R McCann (Aghagallon) (1-0), D McEnhill (0-5, 0-4 frees). Subs: C Johnston for McLarnon (46), D Lynch for McGettigan (52), R Boyle for McAleese (64), O Doherty (1-0) for R McCann (Creggan) (70+1)
Referee: L Devenney (Mayo)