Fermanagh hat-trick of wins delights boss Pete McGrath
Fermanagh 0-12 Donegal 0-08
The final whistle at Brewster Park was greeted with a hearty cheer by a boisterous Fermanagh support, fired by their side's vast improvement in the second half to outscore their more illustrious neighbours 7-3 after going in at the break 0-5 apiece.
These two could end up meeting in the Ulster Championship should Fermanagh get past Antrim in the preliminary round, and perhaps for that reason we seldom spotted Erne talisman Sean Quigley in direct opposition to Neil McGee, both managers deciding to apply a little shadow-boxing for now.
Quigley never scored from play, but a series of long-range frees clipped over, along with a typically-outrageous pointed sideline kick, sent the Ernemen into a semi-final this Sunday against another set of neighbours, Tyrone, which could be hosted in Clones, as intimated by an Ulster Council spokesman last night.
With three wins from three games, Pete McGrath really couldn't have done more with his Fermanagh team.
"Particularly in the St Mary's game," he explained.
"We were five down with 20 minutes to go on a treacherous night and we showed great character.
"Against Down we were always in control, always comfortable. And tonight, it was a step up from both games, a quite considerable step up in terms of the intensity, the tackling, the workrate.
"Lots of mistakes by both teams in terms of giving the ball away and I think people's conditioning isn't what it should be yet this time of the year.
"But we played some really, really good football, took some really good scores and really matched and eventually surpassed Donegal in terms of sheer endeavour and energy, resilience and the will to win."
All they had to do was avoid defeat by five points, but the first half was a softening-up process for both teams. With their styles mirroring each other, the turnovers were cheered almost as loud as the scoring in the John Vesey Stand.
Fermanagh were a point ahead when Donegal manager Rory Gallagher sent on Frank McGlynn on 22 minutes, placing him in the forward line for his ability to break lines. But without the class of Odhran MacNiallais, they couldn't capitalise whatsoever on the four times they spoiled the Fermanagh restarts in the first half.
Donegal looked to be heading to the dressing rooms two up before two points in added on time, the first coming from the boot of Declan McCusker following a turnover from man of the match Barry Mulrone, the second a free tapped over by Quigley after a strong run from Eoin Donnelly.
In the second half, Fermanagh stole possession eight times from Donegal restarts and their hunger went to another level.
Gallagher may wonder at the lack of success of playing Leo McLoone closer to goal, the Glenties man being replaced at the interval.
Two successive frees from 45 metres by Quigley settled Fermanagh nerves.
With Michael Murphy operating around the middle, Donegal resembled a side in the middle of a serious training load.
Going man-for-man and positioning sub Pat Cadden in the full-forward line in place of Ryan Hanna paid off when the Donagh man slotted over a couple of points from play.
The final score came from Quigley, another 45 metre free appear a thing of great ease.
FERMANAGH: C Snow; M Jones, A Breen, P McGovern; B Mulrone, J McMahon 0-1, D Kelly; E Donnelly 0-2, C Jones; D McCusker 0-1, S Quigley 0-5, 4f, 1xSL, P McCusker; C Flaherty 0-1, T Corrigan, R Hanna. Subs: N Cassidy for Kelly (H-time), D Teague for Corrigan (50m), P Cadden 0-2 for Hanna (56m), E McManus for Jones (65m), K Connor for D McCusker (71m)
Yellow cards: McMahon (5m)
DONEGAL: P Boyle; P McGrath, N McGee, E Doherty; E Bán Gallagher, C Ward, M O'Reilly 0-1; C McGonagle, H McFadden; S McBrearty, L McLoone, C Thompson 0-1; O MacNiallais 0-4, 2f, M Murphy 0-1 1f, E McHugh. Subs: F McGlynn for McBrearty (26m), C Gillespie 0-1 and M McElhinney for Thompson and McLoone (H-time), M Carroll for McFadden (60m), Thompson for Ward (65m)
Yellow cards: McGlynn (53m)
Black cards: McElhinney (45l, replaced by A Thompson)
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)