Monday 16 October 2017

Quigley hits heights to keep Fermanagh on the rise

Fermanagh 1-21 Antrim 0-11 All-Ireland SFC Qualifier

Richard O’Callaghan of Fermanagh in action against Benny Hasson and Justin Crozier
Richard O’Callaghan of Fermanagh in action against Benny Hasson and Justin Crozier
Ryan Murray, Antrim, in action against Mickey Jones, Fermanagh
Ryan Murray, Antrim, in action against Tiarnan Daly, Fermanagh
Declan McCusker, Fermanagh, in action against James Laverty, Antrim

Orla Bannon

If this morning's back-door draw doesn't do it for him, the biggest challenge facing Pete McGrath in the next few days will be to keep Fermanagh's feet on the ground after crushing Antrim in such convincing fashion yesterday.

While Sean Quigley deserved the plaudits after a sensational 14-point haul in Brewster Park, three points more than the entire Antrim team managed, the win needs to be tempered with a large dose of reality.

Antrim were really poor; they lacked purpose, conviction or urgency in anything they did. Their limp performance, coming on the back of a memorable first-round win over Laois, should send a message to Fermanagh that one result doesn't make a summer.

It was a lesson not lost on the Erne men's wily manager.

"Over the length and breadth of the country, people are not going to be quaking in their boots about Fermanagh," McGrath said.

"We are very gratified by the quality of football today, but we realise the next game is going to be a sterner, more challenging test.

"If people make us favourites, it's not something we are used to, but it's something we are getting better at dealing with."

Fermanagh hadn't won two Championship matches in the one summer since Malachy O'Rourke led them to the Ulster final in 2008.

McGrath, in his first season in charge, has put real substance to his year's work which already included promotion from Division 3.

His promise after losing the Ulster semi-final to Monaghan was that his team will still be playing football in August - and though Kildare, Longford or Roscommon await them in the draw, if Quigley can keep his scoring rate up, there's no reason why they can't be.

The big Roslea target man failed to score from play when these teams met in the Ulster Championship five weeks ago. This time he landed seven from play, off both feet and fist.

"He was the recipient of a lot of good ball, but he played exceptionally well," said McGrath. "His accuracy and his coolness under pressure was very good. We all know how talented he is and he will realise when you score 14 points you've got to be ready for a bit more attention next time."

Surprise

The only surprise was that Quigley didn't bag Fermanagh's goal, hit by defender Marty O'Brien in the 54th minute.

The game was already over at half time when Fermanagh led by 0-11 to 0-5 after a seven-point blitz inside 16 minutes put them in complete control.

If Antrim could get routed like this, it makes you wonder, how bad were Laois when the Saffrons stunned them in Portlaoise two weeks ago. Travelling to Enniskillen yesterday with a bit of expectancy on their shoulders, they flopped.

"The last day we came out buzzing but we were so flat," admitted their manager Frankie Fitzsimons. "The players will be the first to admit we were poor. There is no way of glossing over it."

McGrath admitted he was "disappointed" Ryan McCluskey's red card was upheld but they coped without him this time, with James McMahon doing well in the sweeper role.

The sides were level three times early on but Antrim failed to score for 23 minutes as Fermanagh took control.

The Erne men hit seven points in row, with Barry Mulrone, Paul McCusker and Niall Cassidy on target from play, while Quigley was clinical from placed balls.

It looked ominous for Antrim when they trailed by 0-9 to 0-3 but former AFL Brisbane Lions player Niall McKeever made an impact when brought on, pointing with his first touch in the 31st minute to end the scoring drought.

Paul McCusker drew a point-blank save from Antrim keeper Chris Kerr in the first real goal chance of the game.

The Saffrons brought on CJ McGourty to add some sparkle to their attack and he contributed 0-3.

But, inevitably, it was Quigley who continued to dominate with a point just 17 seconds after the restart. He nailed his fourth from play three minutes later with a superb effort with the outside of his boot and continued his rampage, scoring freely from play, with the visitors struggling to stay in touch.

O'Brien drilled the ball high into the roof of the net for the game's only goal, to put Fermanagh 1-17 to 0-9 ahead as the contest petered out.

scorers - Fermanagh: S Quigley 0-14 (6fs, 2 '45s'), M O'Brien 1-0, N Cassidy, P McCusker, T Corrigan, B Mulrone, C Jones, D Kille, S McManus 0-1 each. Antrim: CJ McGourty 0-3 (1f), M Pollock 0-3 (2f), N McKeever, M Sweeney, J Crozier, O Gallagher 0-1 each, C Kerr 0-1 (a '45').

Fermanagh - T Treacy 6; M Jones 7, T Daly 7, N Cassidy 7; D McCusker 7, J McMahon 7, M O'Brien 7; E Donnelly 7, R O'Callaghan 6; B Mulrone 7, R Jones 7, D Kelly 7; P McCusker 7, S Quigley 9, T Corrigan 6. Subs: D Kille 6 for Corrigan (18), C Jones 6 for D McCusker (60), A Breen NR for O'Brien (63), C Cullen NR for O'Callaghan (67), S McManus NR for Quigley (70).

Antrim - C Kerr 6; N Delargy 6, S McVeigh 6, J Laverty 6; J Crozier 6, T Scullion 7, R Johnston 6; C Murray 6, B Hasson 6; D Lynch 6, D McAleese 6, M Pollock 7; M Sweeney 6, R Murray 6, O Gallagher 6. Subs: N McKeever 7 for Lynch (28), CJ McGourty 7 for McAleese (ht), J Dowling 6 for Hasson (47), R McGrady 6 for McVeigh (51), N O'Neill 6 for Gallagher (59), C Duffin nr for R Murray (61).

Referee - Barry Cassidy (Derry)

Fermanagh1-21

Antrim0-11

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