Pete McGrath optimistic despite Ernemen exit
Laois 1-19 Fermanagh 2-15
Fermanagh came up just short in a thrilling first round qualifier against Laois in O'Moore Park on Saturday.
In a game that had a little bit of everything, it was home side who were marginally better – yet it was Fermanagh who were to be the team pressing at the finish.
Niall Cassidy kicked a point with one minute of injury time gone to reduce the margin to the minimum but as Pete McGrath admitted afterwards, there was 'a sniff of a goal chance available' as Fermanagh tried to work their way through the home defence.
"We are disappointed but we are very proud of the players," said McGrath.
"Perhaps there was a chance of a goal at the end. But Niall Cassidy is a defender and if we had managed another point everyone would have said he did the right thing so there's no blame on Niall."
And although the Ernemen exit the championship without a win for the third time in four years, McGrath will feel that he has plenty to build on for next year and has already set promotion from Division Three as a target.
"I came in as a stranger but as you go along you learn about the abilities and the character of the players," he said.
"We were in Division Three and at times you could see Laois' ability to move the ball and their power showed why they are a team in the upper echelons of the game but that is where we have to get to. It will take a bit of time but one of our top priorities next year has to be promotion in the league."
Fermanagh led by three points at one stage of the first half when Sean Quigley helped a Tommy McElroy long ball to the net.
But Laois had things all square at the break with Donie Kingston, Conor Meridith and Darren Strong all on target for points.
The key score of the game came when Kingston's shot was well parried by Snow only for the industrious Billy Sheehan to finish for his side's solitary goal.
It gave the home side some breathing space, although a Quigley penalty saw Brian Cox hauled to the round by Laois goalkeeper Graham Brody.
In the end though, Laois were always able to keep their noses in front to deny Fermanagh a win.
Laois: G. Brody; P. McMahon, D. Booth, P. O'Leary; D. Strong (0-03, 2'45), P. Begley (0-01), C. Begley (0-01); C. Meredith (0-02), J. O'Loughlin; J. Finn, B. Sheehan (1-00), N. Donoher; R. Munnelly (0-04, 2f), D. Kingston (0-06, 1f), D. Conway (0-01). Subs: K. Meaney (0-01) for Finn, S. Attride for Conway, C. Coss for O'Loughlin, D. O'Connor for Sheehan.
Fermanagh: C. Snow; M. O'Brien, B. Mulrone, N. Cassidy (0-01); D. McCusker, R. McCluskey, T. McElroy; E. Donnelly, R. O'Callaghan; L. Cullen, R. Jones (0-01), P. McCusker (0-01); R. Corrigan (0-01), S. Quigley (2-08, 1-00pen, 4f), B. Owens (0-01). Subs: E. Maguire (0-02) for L. Cullen, M. Murphy for P. McCusker, B. Cox for Mulrone.