Super Saffrons take Ernesiders apart as bright future beckons
Fermanagh 2-09 - Antrim 4-10
The Antrim conveyor belt of under-age talent is certainly fully operational if one is to gauge from this enterprising performance by the county's minor side who left Fermanagh floundering in their slipstream in this Ulster Championship opener at sun-splashed Brewster Park, Enniskillen.
They may have lived dangerously at one stage in the second half when Fermanagh's tenacity saw them trim back a nine-point deficit, but it was the Saffrons who finished on a high much to the delight of manager High McGettigan.
"I think there is character in this side and they showed it by the way they reacted to Fermamagh's early goal and then went into a big lead before being reined in," said McGettigan.
"They still finished strongly and now we have a huge match against Donegal ahead of us."
Antrim's work-rate, energy and pace underpinned a display rich in endeavour and cohesion and hinting at even better days to come.
Their full-forward line of Liam Quinn, Kevin Small and Michael Hagan posed a constant threat and by half-time had already seriously discomfited the Fermanagh defence.
Yet it was Fermanagh who struck a telling blow after just five minutes when impressive full-forward Eoin Beacom flicked a long, hopeful lob to the net.
And as his side began to punch holes in the visitors' defence, it looked as if they might take command.
With Patrick Finnegan and Patrick McCormick showing a sharp appetite for translating defence into attack, Antrim were certainly not slow to respond with interest.
The loss of Tiarnan Bogue to injury in the 15th minute - he was replaced by Conall Quinn -disrupted Fermanagh's early rhythm somewhat and when Liam Quinn received a more generous supply of possession, he cut loose.
Four superb points flowed from his educated boot.
It was a combination of his skill, composure and vision that engineered Fermanagh's goal just before the break when the ball was finally flashed to the net by Hagan to leave Antrim ahead by only 1-7 to 1-4 at the half-way stage.
When Eoin Nagle drilled in their second goal, Antrim were more comfortable at 2-8 to 1-4 and a third goal from Damien McErlain suggested that a landslide victory was in the offing.
But Colm Jones sparked a Fermanagh recovery with three fine points and Michael McGarrigle pirated a goal only for Antrim to stride imperiously through the closing stages that were highlighted by a fourth goal from Kevin Small.
Fermanagh: G Doherty; J Cassidy, J McCaffrey, C Cameron; C McGee, N Tierney, S McGullion; D O Cathain, D McGurn 0-1; E Curran 0-1, T Boyd, T Bogue; P O'Reilly 0-2, E Beacom 1-2, C Jones 0-3. Subs: C Quinn for Bogue (15), M McGarrigle 1-0 for Boyd (36), D Doolan for McGurn (42), C McNally for Beacom (53), C McBrien for McGee (57), C McGann for Quinn (59).
Antrim: G Smith; M Donnelly, S Kelly, P Mulholland; P Finnegan 0-1, P McCormick, M McNamee; N McKeown, J Maybin; E McCabe 0-1, D McErlain 1-0, E Nagle 1-0; L Quinn 0-4, K Small 1-2, M Hagan 1-1. Subs: E Fyffe 0-1 for Hagan (40), M Doherty for Quinn (530, J Finnegan for Maybin (57), J Cooley for McNamee (59).
Referee: Dan Mullan (Derry).