Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath can feel positive in defeat
Derry 1-11 Fermanagh 2-4: It's a time for experimentation. Nothing else matters in January.
Will Derry be pleased to have won at Owenbeg? Naturally. Will Fermanagh be disappointed to have lost at Owenbeg? Naturally. But will Fermanagh have taken more from the hour than the team that overcame them? Quite possibly.
The Ernemen's McKenna Cup campaign may be over once they play Monaghan but even from the disappointment of two defeats, the first by St. Mary's and now this, Pete McGrath will have been able to garner some positives.
Yesterday, Derry struggled for long periods to break them down. Brian McIver's team, having perhaps just shaded the first half territorially, went in 2-3 to 1-4 behind, but with the promise of a gale force breeze at their backs to come.
But in the second 35 minutes, they struggled to break down the Fermanagh defence, with only the lively Aaron Kerrigan causing a real threat close to goal.
Fermanagh's tackling and their defensive shape were good. The problem was that this is January. When they tried to get up the field, they hadn't the legs to support the Quigley brothers in the full-forward line.
Those two caused trouble for Derry in the first half, but once Oisin Duffy and Dermot McBride got to grips with their physicality, the attacking threat that Fermanagh posed was stunted.
It resulted in them registering just a single point in the second half, and right at the very start through Ruairi Corrigan. The last 32 minutes were scoreless minutes for the visitors.
Even still, it wasn't until 13 minutes from time that Derry finally managed to get their noses in front. They had led in the early moments when Aaron Kerrigan got his county career off to a great start.The Claudy man broke the ball to himself and showing the finishing ability that has seen him brought into the squad, he rifled in.
The lead lasted 30 seconds as a long ball to the other end was broken by Sean Quigley to his sibling, who lashed an unstoppable shot past Eoin McNicholl.
Fermanagh had been forced into the one and only black card replacement of the game, with Stephen McElrone given his orders following a bodycheck.
The sides were level at 1-2 apiece when Fermanagh edged ahead again, Seamus Quigley a nuisance this time under the long ball, which came back off the post and fell kindly for Sean Quigley to fire home his team's second goal.
That meant Fermanagh led by two and they were able to maintain their lead until the 57th minute, when James Kielt found his range brilliantly.
The Kilrea man kicked three of his side's last five points, with substitute Ciaran McGoldrick twice finding gaps in the green rearguard and fisting over as well.
It takes Derry to within touching distance of a semi-final, and left Brian McIver content.
"We wouldn't have been happy with a lot of things in our first half performance but, having said that, you had to allow for the conditions. You see lads coming into the changing room and they're literally freezing," said the Derry manager.
"It's alright talking about performance but both teams had to play in those conditions as well.
Derry: E McNicholl; M McShane, O Duffy, D McBride; C McWilliams, A McAlynn, K Johnston (0-1); Patsy Bradley, N Holly; B Heron, J Kielt (0-4, 0-2f), J Kearney; D Mullan (0-1), E McGuckin (0-1), A Kerrigan (1-2, 0-1f. Subs: P McGuigan for Holly (HT), SL McGoldrick for McWilliams (44), C McFaul for Kearney (44), Ciaran McGoldrick (0-2) for Mullan (55), M Craig for Johnston (60), F Doherty for P Bradley (68)
Fermanagh: C Snow; M O'Brien, C Hyde, C Quigley; N Shannon, B Mulrone, T Daly; E Donnelly, J Love; R Corrigan (0-1), S McElrone, R Ormsby; C Jones, Seamus Quigley (1-1f), Sean Quigley (1-2). Subs: E Courtney for McElrone (black card, 5), A Breen for M O'Brien (21), N Cassidy for Love (HT), J Woods for Mulrone (40), A Boyle for Ormsby (50), D McNulty for Courtney (61)
Referee: S McLaughlin (Donegal).