When Fermanagh manager Kieran Donnelly decided that wing forward Ultan Kelm was fit to start this game and thus make his first competitive appearance in 2022 following a long battle with a recurring hip injury, little did he realise that the Erne Gaels player would prove to be the match winner in an otherwise tense and defensive battle with Longford.
In a contest where Longford started well, kicking the first three points of the game inside seven minutes, Fermanagh gradually found their feet. First they came to grips with Longford’s direct running down the central channels, which yielded early scores for Darren Gallagher and Keelin McGann, and then overcame a black card for centre forward Conall Jones just before half time.
0-6 to 0-4 at the interval in Longford’s favour became a three-point lead when McGann added another excellent point in the third minute of the second half, but from there Fermanagh took over, kicking six of the next seven points.
Brothers Conall and Ryan Jones were immense down the middle of the attack, Daragh McGurn and Joe McDade made some superb catches at midfield, while defensively they crammed the centre of the field and forced Longford into some very poor shots.
The introduction of Mark Hughes helped Longford get back on terms as he kicked two excellent scores, but Fermanagh never trailed again, and were leading by one when a driving run from Kelm after 69 minutes opened up the defence and set up his perfect low shot past Paddy Collum.
Ryan Jones followed up with a masterful strike and Longford also kicked the next two, but the goal chance they needed never arrived.
U Kelm 1-1, S Quigley 0-4f, R Jones 0-4, C Corrigan 0-1, D McGurn 0-1, C Jones 0-1.
D Gallagher 0-5f, K McGann 0-2, M Hughes 0-2, K Diffley 0-1, R Moffett 0-1, F Sheridan 0-1.
S McNally; L Flanagan, G Kavanagh, J Cassidy; A Breen, D McCusker, J McMahon; R Jones, J McDade; U Kelm, C Jones, J Largo Ellis; C Corrigan, D McGurn, S Quigley.
O Kelm for McMahon (h-t), L McStravick for Corrigan (59), G Jones for U Kelm (70+2), K Connor for Breen (70+3)
P Collum; P Fox, A Farrell, J Moran; R Moffett, M Quinn, B O’Farrell; D Gallagher, K Diffley; K McGann, D Doherty, Dessie Reynolds; I O’Sullivan, Daniel Reynolds, J Duggan.
J Shiels for O’Sullivan (28), J Matthews for Duggan (h-t), M Hughes for Doherty (49), E McCormack for Daniel Reynolds (59), F Sheridan for Diffley (70).
J Henry (Mayo).