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Sluggish opening cost Fermanagh: Peter McGrath

By Declan Bogue

Chastened and a little bit raw, Pete McGrath was as lucid as ever in explaining the first-half blitz that opened up a 12-point lead.

"I think in the first 20 minutes particularly, Antrim took the game to us in a very energetic and enthusiastic way.

"Over the field, the one-to-ones were being won by Antrim. Certainly, Justin Crozier was a problem and we dealt with that at half-time. Tommy McElroy went on him and that stymied his contribution."

Having impressively recovered from the hail of Antrim scores to rattle off 1-5 in five minutes either side of the break to narrow the gap to four points, they were the architects of their own downfall when Kevin Niblock hit a goal to allow them to breathe more freely.

But in Niblock as a creative force and Neeson the apex of a very sharp attack, McGrath felt Antrim's goalscorers set the game alight, although he bemoaned the loss of John Woods with a suspected broken jaw and their slow start.

"What I have been emphasising to the players, and this was emphasised on Friday night and this morning in the hotel; in Championship football, every moment of the game is important," recounted McGrath.

"Today, particularly in the 10-15 minutes, we were sluggish, we were cumbersome, making very elementary errors in terms of hand-passing, handling, scoring opportunities missed and all of this combined to give Antrim a serious foothold in the game."

And yet for all that, they came, as McGrath says, "within a whisker" of a win with the last play of the game.

"It is essential that this squad of players gets as much out of this Championship season as it possibly can. If that means winning one, two, three games in the qualifiers, that's invaluable for team progression," he finished.

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