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Fermanagh boss McGrath delivers on his August promise

By Declan Bogue

Published 27/07/2015

Hard at it: Westmeath’s Killian Daly and Paddy Holloway challenge Ryan Jones of Fermanagh
Hard at it: Westmeath’s Killian Daly and Paddy Holloway challenge Ryan Jones of Fermanagh

Five short weeks previously, Pete McGrath stood on a patch of grass in Cavan and told reporters with utter conviction, that his Fermanagh side would be playing football into August.

He made good on his promise, as they now face Dublin next Sunday in Croke Park - appropriate reward for their application and evolution this year under the old master.

Westmeath? Well, they aren't really the story. Who can resist the lure of McGrath, the man who won All-Irelands in 1991 and 1994, enjoying his second coming in a county that has fallen head over heels for him.

Asked afterwards if he was glad he promised such giddy excitement, McGrath replied: "I did because after Monaghan beat us here, I knew on that day that we could have beaten Monaghan. Some of our mistakes and the sending off that derailed us.

"I knew after that game that we had a serious team and I knew that we could be playing football in August. And I asked them, do you want to be playing football in August? And they said, 'yes', they did. I said, 'right, let's go out and tell the people that'."

The football was a pragmatic matter. After 33 minutes, Fermanagh had only two points on the board but 10 wides struck. Sean Quigley hooked three frees wide on the near post and they had lost inspiring leaders Ryan McCluskey and Marty O'Brien to two very questionable black cards.

The tactic of kicking long ball into Quigley was negated by a strong performance from his marker Kieran Gavin, and the alert sweeping from John Gilligan.

But McCluskey's black card allowed Ruairi Corrigan to enter the play with five minutes remaining of the first half.

It was his brother Tomás that took the game by the throat, just as he had against Roscommon. He ran through the Westmeath cover to score his first point from distance, before latching onto a Declan McCusker delivery to turn his marker Kevin Maguire and hit his second a minute later.

Ruairi Corrigan was then taken down as he made his way through on goal by Ray Connellan, but referee Paudie Hughes elected for a free that Tomás converted. The lack of a black card in this instance certainly contributed to the scorn poured down on Hughes as he made his way off the pitch soon after with the sides level at 0-5 each.

Fermanagh were masterful in the second half. Two minutes in, Maguire again fouled Corrigan for a free he tapped over and Hughes booked him for persistent fouling. Straight away, manager Tom Cribben replaced him with David Lynch.

From that point on, the Ernemen put a choke hold on the game, holding Westmeath scoreless for half an hour. They had already gone ahead when Ruairi Corrigan was once again bundled to the ground when through on goal - this time by Lynch, but Hughes refused to blow.

With Conall Jones on as a sub, McGrath brought Sean Quigley out the field to use him as a playmaker and leave more room for Tomás Corrigan inside.

Points began to rain with Quigley, Niall Cassidy and another Corrigan free, before a patient build-up finally revealed a chink in the defence that McCusker sliced through and kicked from distance.

Leading 10-6, Fermanagh's performance oozed maturity and a team entirely aware of their roles. With McCluskey off, young James McMahon became the sweeper.

At the other end, Westmeath wilted. In the second half alone they kicked four wides, but the five shots they kicked short crucified them altogether.

They had an early sight of goal when Denis Glennon bore down on Thomas Treacy's goal, but he fisted over. Lynch was the wrong man at the right time when they were only two points down and he had a half chance, only for him to produce a weak kick that Treacy saved.

The match was already long dead as a contest when the final flourish came. Toying with the ball in the middle, Ruairi Corrigan dropped a shoulder to ghost past his man and speared a ball to the unmarked Richie O'Callaghan.

His fist made it before an opponent by a fraction, leaving Tomás Corrigan one on one with Westmeath's substitute goalkeeper, Gary Connaughton. Corrigan coolly lobbed the 2008 All-Star.

Game over.

Now for the Dubs?

Fermanagh: T Treacy; M Jones, T Daly, N Cassidy (0-1); M O'Brien, R McCluskey, J McMahon; E Donnelly, R O'Callaghan; B Mulrone, R Jones, D McCusker (0-2); P McCusker, S Quigley (0-2, 0-1 free), T Corrigan (1-7, 0-5 frees). Subs: C Jones for E Donnelly (44); C Cullen for N Cassidy (70).

Yellow cards: R Jones (29); B Mulrone (66); N Cassidy (69).

Black cards: D Kelly (0-1) replaced M O'Brien (18); R Corrigan replaced R McCluskey (30).

Westmeath: D Quinn; K Maguire, K Gavin, F Boyle; K Daly, P Holloway, J Dolan; D Corroon, P Sharry; J Gilligan, R Connellan (0-1, free), K Martin; J Connellan (0-4, 0-2 frees), D Glennon (0-1), S Dempsey (0-1). Subs: G Egan for J Connellan (h-t); D Lynch for K Maguire (37); G Connaughton for D Quinn (55); L Smyth for D Glennon (57); P Greville for P Holloway (57).

Yellow cards: K Maguire (37); F Boyle (50); D Lynch (65).

Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).

 

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