Sean Quigley strikes late as Fermanagh eye last four
Fermanagh 1-09 - Derry 1-07
Sean Quigley's late goal decided a flat encounter at Brewster Park yesterday, edging Fermanagh closer to the semi-finals of the Dr McKenna Cup.
Both themselves and Tyrone are the only sides with a 100% record from their first two games, a return that will please boss Pete McGrath. He sent his side out to frustrate Derry by allowing them complete freedom of the pitch, up to when they crossed the 45 metre line.
Derry wing-back Brian Óg McAlary routinely found himself in acres of space on the left wing and with Daniel Heavron sweeping to great effect and gobbling up any balls forward when Fermanagh attacked, it left both sets of defence dominant.
Given how low-key the first half was, it came as a surprise that a small flare-up broke out among opposing players as they made their way in for half-time with the visitors 0-5 to 0-4 ahead.
The home side had just taken the lead back after the resumption when Derry won a break in the middle. Sean Leo McGoldrick advanced and transferred to Benny Heron, who skipped inside Niall Cassidy and drilled low past Christopher Snow for the opening goal.
If players were showing signs of rustiness, the same could be said of referee Joe McQuillan, who invoked several howls of derision after some soft frees.
Two points from Paul McCusker and Sean Quigley put Fermanagh back in contention.
Then, with eight minutes remaining, substitute Daniel Kille and Ryan Jones switched the ball from the left to right wing, where Barry Mulrone floated a searching ball towards the back stick.
Oak Leaf full-back Niall Holly appeared to believe the ball had gone dead, but Sean Quigley kept it in and just got enough of a toe on it to squeeze past Thomas Mallon and trickle over the line.
A minute later, replacement Aidan Breen tried the same tactic and hoisted another aerial ball towards Quigley and with the Roslea man and Holly grappling at the edge of the square, the ball bounced over Mallon's crossbar to leave Fermanagh three clear.
Derry went in search of a late goal, but it was to no avail.
One statistic that jumps out was that the full-forward line - Niall Loughlin, Daniel McKinless and Heavron, as well as McKinless' black card replacement Terence O'Brien - were held scoreless.
Victorious manager McGrath said: "It's quite possible that we have done more work than Derry on the field in terms of training. So we told our players that if this came down to the last 15 minutes, our legs would carry us if we kept the heads clear.
"Whenever Derry scored the goal it could have been a seismic moment, but it didn't become that because we dug in and got the score."
A win over an understrength Donegal on Wednesday night would send Fermanagh automatically to the semi-finals, while Derry could still join them with a favourable scoring difference when they host Queen's.