Wicklow 0-17 Fermanagh 1-11
Wicklow overcame the first half dismissal of Tony Hannon to post a confidence-boosting qualifier win over Fermanagh.
In the Aughrim sunshine, free-taker Hannon collected his second yellow card for hauling down Hugh Brady and Wicklow came under immediate pressure.
Daryl Keenan and Seamus Quigley pointed before James Sherry nabbed a goal, putting Fermanagh a 1-05 to 0-07 interval lead.
But Wicklow, with Seanie Furlong and Paul Earls their chief scorers, got back on top in the second half and doggedly held on at the finish.
Fermanagh took the early initiative, using their wind advantage to good effect and peppering the Wicklow defence with long through balls.
Ryan Carson and Seamus Quigley raised white flags, but the good work was undone by some slack defending that allowed Tony Hannon kick two surefooted frees.
Scoring chances were few and far between in the opening quarter, with play kept largely between the two 45-metre lines – although there was a flash of a goal-scoring chance when the free-running Leighton Glynn got within range.
Fermanagh goalkeeper Chris Breen managed to smother Glynn’s effort out, much to the disappointment of the vocal Wicklow support.
But Wicklow were turning the screw and with Darren Hayden, JP Dalton and Glynn all having an influence, the home side built a 0-05 to 0-03 lead.
A Hannon free had his side ahead for the first time but the big Hollywood man turned villain when he saw red for his second bookable offence, just four minutes later.
Hannon’s dismissal rattled Wicklow and Fermanagh, last year’s beaten Ulster finalists, clinically took the lead coming up to half-time.
Daryl Keenan kicked a free, Quigley pointed from play and then Sherry collected a prized goal, before Seanie Furlong had the final say of the half for Wicklow.
Helped by Mick O’Dwyer’s half-time words, the home side pressed again for scores on the restart, playing the better football against a Fermanagh side that struggled to maintain possession at times.
Early points from Earls and Furlong were cancelled out by Tommy McElroy and Carson, but Hayden popped up with a well-executed point to tie up the game at 0-10 to 1-07.
The tide was turning in Wicklow’s favour as they hit four points in succession, leading up to the hour mark, with Dalton scoring with his fist and Thomas Walsh being aided by the woodwork in his search for a point.
The midfield axis of Walsh and James Stafford was prominent throughout and caused Fermanagh a number of problems. Losing Walsh to a late red card meant Wicklow hearts skipped a beat.
A dramatic finish ensued as Wicklow goalkeeper Mervyn Travers was called upon to make a top notch save and deny Marty McGrath a goal.
McGrath did follow up with a point but a goal was what Fermanagh craved and Wicklow would not yield