'Soft' penalty cost us match, rues Lakeland manager McGrath
Mayo 2-14 Fermanagh 1-12
Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath was in no doubt about the decisive moment of the game as his side made their exit from this year's championship at the hands of Mayo in Castlebar on Saturday.
Fermanagh, with the breeze at their backs, dominated exchanges in the first half as they went in at the break with a six-point advantage, 1-10 to 1-04.
And although Mayo bossed things in the second half, McGrath's charges still held a one-point lead with six minutes to go. However, Joe McQuillan then awarded the home side a penalty after Aidan O'Shea went down and Cillian O'Connor converted the resultant penalty to put Mayo into a lead they would never relinquish.
McGrath, though, was adamant that O'Shea dived and he was backed up by television footage of the incident.
"I thought at the time it looked very soft. The referee indicated some kind of a jersey pull which if it was the case was minimal but RTE are just after showing it to me there now and before Che Cullen made any contact, Aidan O'Shea was diving. I was amazed when I saw it, it was an absolute dive," said the Fermanagh boss.
"After us playing so well in the first half and dominating the game to a large extent, Mayo did turn the screw in the second half around the middle third as we knew they were going to.
"We knew they were going to start to push and come at us but we were generally managing it. I know they were chipping away and chipping away but with six minutes to go we were still a point ahead. The penalty then was the defining moment of the game because they had the bit of a breeze, they had the crowd behind them, they then get a penalty to go in front with six minutes to go. We had to respond very quickly but they got a quick point.
"The players are devastated, even though we were playing one of the top three teams in the country, we feel that it is another one that we maybe have left behind."
Fermanagh struggled to get any ball in the middle third after half time as Mayo piled on the pressure and McGrath admits that the Westerners' power in that area was a problem.
They had physical strength in that area and then they bring on Barry Moran who is another big man and that narrows down kick out options again. Wherever we fired the ball they had really big men and our energy in the middle of the field subsided in the second half where in the first half we were rampant in that area," he said.
However, McGrath stresses that this has been another year of progress for his side.
"There has been progress, there is no doubt about that. I said that to the players, we talked about putting the jersey in a better place and they did that today. It's just having that facility to make that next step. It's a mini quantum leap from say the middle of the middle tier to the top of the middle tier and maybe be touching the guys at the very top. That's the challenge, and it's a serious challenge for any county team."
Scorers: Mayo: C. O'Connor (1-05, 1-00pen, 1 45, 3f), A. Freeman (1-00), L. Keegan (0-02), D. O'Connor (0-02), A. Dillon (0-02), C. Boyle (0-01), A. O'Shea (0-01), E. Regan (0-01, 1f)
Fermanagh: T. Corrigan (0-04, 2f), S. Quigley (1-01, 1f), A. Breen (0-03), B. Mulrone (0-02), E. Donnelly (0-01), R. Lyons (0-01).