Rory Gallagher isn’t shying away from it. Five games into a division they were favourites to be relegated from, unbeaten Fermanagh took another big step towards a fairytale promotion at Brewster Park yesterday and their manager isn’t blinking at the bright lights ahead.
“We’re not going to lie down, we’re going to go for it,” said the Erne manager. “You break the league down to phases and we felt if we had six, seven or eight points you’d be in with a great chance, but it can turn very quickly.
“Armagh will be hurting again having lost (against Donegal) but we’ll knuckle down and look forward to it. We’re enjoying the way we’re going for it.”
Predictably, it was a low-scoring victory but Clare will regret losing Jamie Malone to the sin-bin in the 61st minute when they were just two points down, trailing 0-9 to 0-7.
Fermanagh then hit three points, two from play from Aidan Breen and Ryan Lyons, while the visitors were down to 14 men and survived Sean O’Donoghue’s goal-bound shot which goalkeeper Thomas Treacy saved on the line.
“It was tough going, they’re very hard to break down,” said Clare boss Colm Collins.
Overall they were the better team and they edged it. We conceded too many scoreable frees.
Clare couldn’t crack Fermanagh’s code and their frustration grew as the game wore on, taking pot-shots from distance which resulted in six second-half wides and a few which dropped short.
Fermanagh started brightly with two points in the opening four minutes from Sean Quigley (free) and Che Cullen. But it was immediately clear there would be little to separate these sides and they were level four times during the half, with Gary Brennan and David Tubridy the key men for Clare. It was 0-6 to 0-5 to Fermanagh at the break, only three of the 11 scores were from play.
Cullen was the sole provider for Fermanagh with Kieran Malone and Conor Finucane pointing for the visitors. Clare found it difficult to penetrate Fermanagh’s packed defence but Finucane capitalised on a poor kickout by Thomas Treacy with a punishing score and Brennan converted a mark inside after a superb pass by Tubridy.
Tubridy’s second free of the game edged Clare ahead for the only time in the 27th minute but Fermanagh responded with the last two scores of the half, Kane Connor converting a mark and Sean Quigley’s ‘45’ deep in stoppage time.
Quigley had teed up Ryan Lyons for the only real goal chance of the half but his left-footed shot was a good height for the goalkeeper who pushed it round the post for a ‘45’, which Quigley converted.
Fermanagh kept their noses in front throughout the second half and dictated the tempo with Clare growing more frustrated and taking pot-shots from distance (which included six second-half wides).
Ryan Lyons, Declan McCusker, Ciaran Corrigan and Aidan Breen all scored from play for Fermanagh in the second half.
Jamie Malone hit two points from play for Clare in the third quarter but when he was sin-binned in the 61st minute, with the score 0-9 to 0-7, Fermanagh punished that ill-discipline with three points to seal the win.
S Quigley 0-6 (5f, one ‘45’), C Cullen, A Breen, D McCusker, C Corrigan, R Lyons 0-1 each, K Connor 0-1 (mark).
D Tubridy 0-2 (2f), J Malone 0-2, C Finucane, K Malone, K Sexton 0-1, G Brennan 0-1 (mark), E Cleary 0-1 (a ‘45’)
T Treacy; J Cassidy, L Cullen, K Connor; D McCusker, J McMahon, C Corrigan; C Cullen, R Jones; R Lyons, U Kelm, A Breen; K McDonnell, C Jones, S Quigley.
P McCusker for McDonnell (30), E Donnelly for Cassidy (47), D Teague for C Jones (55), D McGurn for P McCusker (68), E McHugh for Breen (70)
P DeLoughrey; K Harnett, C Brennan, G Kelly; D Ryan, A Fitzgerald, C O’Dea; G Brennan, C O’Connor; K Malone, S Collins, J Malone; E Cleary, D Tubridy, C Finucane.
S O’Donoghue for O’Connor (49), K Sexton for K Malone (49), G O’Brien for Finucane (55).
Jerome Henry (Mayo).