Pete McGrath: Fermanagh are no sitting ducks for Dublin

Fermanagh 1-13 Westmeath 0-7: Fermanagh displayed new levels of maturity and confidence to overcome Westmeath in Breffni Park on Saturday and book their place in the last eight of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship.

Pete McGrath: Fermanagh are no sitting ducks for Dublin

After their Ulster semi-final defeat to Monaghan, Pete McGrath claimed his unfancied team would still be playing football in August, and his charges responded to that bold prediction in spectacular fashion.

The Ernesiders now face Dublin in the All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals on Sunday.

In keeping with the expectancy and positive vibes he’s been giving off all summer, Fermanagh boss McGrath insisted they would be no innocents abroad when they hit Croke Park for a first All-Ireland quarter-final appearance since 2004.

“We will approach the game on Sunday in the exact same way as we’ve approached every other game this year,” he said.

“If we don’t, we will be sitting ducks, and we aren’t going down there to be sitting ducks. Obviously we are going to have a huge task in our next game but these players do not know when to quit.”

Fermanagh overcame two black cards, a bad penalty decision, and an injury to skipper Eoin Donnelly to set up a dream date with the Dubs.

They could easily have thrown in the towel and the ill-discipline which resulted in the first-half black cards for defenders Marty O’Brien and Ryan McCluskey.

Ruairi Corrigan was pushed in the back in the 43rd minute but was denied a penalty and Fermanagh were rocked further when skipper Eoin Donnelly limped off two minutes later.

Tomas Corrigan starred with 1-7, his cheeky chip over veteran goalie Gary Connaughton in the 64th minute providing the gloss on a great display.

He was also given the free-taking duties after Sean Quigley missed three first-half efforts and nailed five kicks out of six.

But his two points from play towards the end of the first half, after moving to full-forward with off-colour Quigley coming out the field, were huge scores.

Fermanagh were panicking and looked to be a bag of nerves with Westmeath good value for their 0-5 to 0-2 lead.

Even without John Heslin and Ger Egan, they were threatening up front, but Corrigan’s three scores before the break (the last being a tap-over free) left it level, 0-5 each, at the break.

McGrath revealed it was Fermanagh’s sin-binned duo who delivered the inspirational half-time team talk which fired the team to victory.

“A lot of things were pushing against us but the five minutes before half time certainly steadied the ship,” he said.

“There were a lot of tentative performances in the first half and when you start hitting a lot of wides, it can destabilise a team.

“At half time we all, management and players, accepted that we weren’t playing well enough — but we were still level.

“We knew if we went out in the second half and brought our best performance into the game, then we were going to win it.

“And in fairness, the two players who spoke loudest in the changing room were Marty O’Brien and Ryan McCluskey. The players went out to play, particularly for those two.” Westmeath were disinterested and lacked direction in the second half, going 27 minutes without a score.

In between times, Fermanagh hit 1-6 without reply to snatch a famous win. The loss of John Connellan at half time due to a hamstring injury did not help, but Westmeath looked out of ideas and by the 50-minute mark had hit ten wides and dropped six shots short.

Manager Tom Cribbin, who confirmed he wants to stay on for a second year in charge, was at a loss to explain their poor second-half showing.

“It’s just very difficult to take and hard to put your finger on what went wrong. This is a massive thing for Westmeath to get this far and a lot of nervous energy showed in the players out there.

“Fermanagh have won a lot of games this year, they’re after getting a good few games in the qualifiers, and we were coming straight off a defeat, and it does tell.”

However Cribbin refused to blame the 13-point Leinster final defeat by the Dubs as a reason why they crashed and burned in the second half.

“We were 0-5 to 0-2 up in the first half and playing well, and things seemed to be going right for us. We sat back a bit then and next thing it was five points all, and it was still five points all at half time.

“So you can’t blame the Leinster final or anything else. We just didn’t play in the second half.”

FERMANAGH:

T Treacy; M Jones, T Daly, N Cassidy; M O’Brien, R McCluskey, J McMahon; E Donnelly, R O’Callaghan; B Mulrone, R Jones, D McCusker (0-2); P McCusker (0-1), S Quigley (0-2, f), T Corrigan (1-7, 5f)

Subs:

D Kelly (0-1) for O’Brien (BC, 18), R Corrigan for McCluskey (BC, 28), C Jones for Donnelly (45), C Cullen for Cassidy (70)

WESTMEATH:

D Quinn; K Maguire, K Gavin, F Boyle; K Daly, P Holloway, J Dolan; D Corroon, P Sharry; J Gilligan, R Connellan (0-1, f), K Martin; J Connellan (0-4, 2f), D Glennon (0-1), S Dempsey (0-1)

Subs:

G Egan for Connellan (HT), D Lynch for Maguire (41), D Daly for Dempsey (47), G Connaughton for Quinn (55), L Smyth for Glennon (57), P Greville for Holloway (57).

Referee:

Padraig Hughes (Armagh)

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