Fermanagh can look forward to playing in the second tier of the NFL next year after humbling table-toppers Cavan at Kingspan Breffni.
Already promoted Cavan led for most of the match but the Ernesiders took their destiny into their own hands to book a place in the final with their fellow Ulstermen this weekend at Croke Park.
It didn’t look good though for the second-placed team when, after just 38 seconds, Jonathan McCabe palmed the ball to the net after James Smith’s angled effort rebounded off the Fermanagh crossbar.
Fermanagh were feisty, fearless and faultless in their efforts all afternoon and they replied to Cavan’s shock early goal with textbook points from Messrs Breen, McGurn and Lyons to draw level after just 11 minutes.
However, the Ernesiders looked vulnerable at the back under the high ball and in the 22nd minute Killian Clarke outjumped Fermanagh ‘keeper McNally and the retreating McGurn to flick Jack McKenna’s speculative 42 metre effort into the visitors’ net.
Kieran Donnelly’s troops rebounded off the ropes once more but were unlucky in the 25th minute when Cavan ‘keeper Galligan dived to deflect Ultan Kelm’s exocet wide for a fruitless ’45.
Cavan looked in the mood as they stretched their legs after the break and Gearóid McKiernan opened his account for the day by notching the two opening points of the second half to make it a five-point game, 2-5 to 0-6.
There was no letup in the end-to-end fare though and Fermanagh duo Lee Cullen and Josh Largo-Ellis eagerly sized up Cavan’s goal but James Smith’s block thwarted the visitors only for Ryan Jones to land a great point in the follow-up.
Seconds later, Ryan Lyons effected a great turnover which ended with Jones again splitting the posts for the gung-ho white and green brigade.
Fermanagh had all the momentum entering the final straight and Ultan Kelm’s terrific solo goal – from a Ryan Lyons pass – catapulted the visitors into the lead (1-10 to 2-6) for the first time in the match with 56 minutes on the clock.
The onus was now on Cavan to show some grit and fight in adversity but the blues faded badly in the run-in as their opponents smelled blood.
Fermanagh went bald-headed for the finishing line and unanswered points from Jones, Lyons (two) and Kelm between the 63rd and 71st minutes were enough to seal the deal.
R Galligan (0-1, ’45); C Reilly, P Faulkner, N Carolan; C Brady, J Smith, T Madden; J McKenna, K Clarke (1-0); Cian Madden, O Brady (0-5, 5f), J McCabe (1-0) ; G McKiernan (0-2, 1f), B Boylan, Conor Madden.
S Smith for Cian Madden (h-t); C Smith for J McKenna (46); J McLoughlin for C Reilly (52); R O’Neill(0-1) for Con or Madden (58); M Reilly for B Boylan (68); K Brady for N Carolan (inj, 71).
S McNally; L Cullen, C Cullen, L Flanagan; J Cassidy, S McGullion, C McManus; R Jones (0-3), B Horan; J Largo-Ellis, R Lyons (0-4, 2f), R McCaffrey; U Kelm (1-3), D McGurn (0-2), A Breen (0-1).
C McShea for A Breen (46); S Quigley (0-1, f) for R McCaffrey (48); C McGee for D McGurn (66); D McCusker for J Largo-Ellis (70); F O’Brien for L Flanagan (74).
T Murphy (Galway)