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National Football League: Kilkenny 1-3 Fermanagh 0-22

By John Campbell

Every cloud has a silver lining — even in beleaguered Fermanagh.

After a week of turbulence and controversy, John O’Neill’s new-look team finally were given an opportunity to do their talking on the field of play which they seized with both hands in this ultimately one-sided Allianz Football League Division Four encounter.

But if the Fermanagh players made a statement of sorts by recording a 16-point victory, it’s the talking that will take place in the cloistered environment of a county Management Committee meeting tonight that could well fashion the team’s future.

With upwards on six clearly disenchanted players having withdrawn from O’Neill’s panel last week to compound the difficulties caused by earlier defections for different reasons, Fermanagh is in a state of turmoil.

And with tonight’s meeting due to consider a report on a get-together which has already taken place between players harbouring grievances and county board officials, the focus will be on addressing issues which appear to have savagely tainted Fermanagh’s image.

Officials are remaining tight-lipped until after tonight’s meeting but county chairman Peter Carty is committed to resolving what has developed into an unseemly impasse. Three years ago Fermanagh were in the Ulster final against Armagh but the team that performed against Kilkenny at the weekend bore little resemblance to the side that came so close to becoming provincial kingpins.

Only three experienced players — goalkeeper Chris Breen, full-back Barry Owens and centre-half-back Hugh Brady — were in manager O’Neill’s line-up for the game against the worst-ranked team in the country.

And while several players notably Ryan Jones, Murt O’Brien, John O’Flanagan and Joe O’Brien availed of the chance to show their wares, O’Neill is aware that the re-introduction of physical power, craft and industry as epitomised by the Peter Sherry, Tommy McElroy, Niall Bogue and Ciaran Flaherty among others will be essential if championship progress is to be made.

Shane Lyons is still recovering from a finger injury while at least four other players — Mark Little, James Sherry, Fergal Murphy and James Connolly — have distanced themselves from the squad.

And all the time a question mark hovers over the future involvement of Martin McGrath, Ryan McCluskey, Eamon Maguire and Damien Kelly. No county can afford to dispense with such a tranche of talent and that’s why tonight’s meeting is one of the most important to be held in Fermanagh for some time.

Victory over Kilkenny thrusts Fermanagh into a mid-table position.

Fermanagh led by 0-8 to 1-1 at half-time but they played with much greater conviction in the second-half.

David Prendergast’s scored a first-half goal for Kilkenny but Ryan Jones, Conor Quigley and Niall Cassidy were in the vanguard of a points blitz that saw their team enter the second period on a sound footing.

Substitutes John O’Flanagan (0-5), Seamus Quigley (0-2), and Joe O’Brien (0-2) contributed nine points between them.

Kilkenny’s two second-half points from Graham Lawlor and Michael Duggan were pin-pricks in Fermanagh’s resolve.

Kilkenny: JJ O Sullivan, D Grennan, S Kenny, C Foran, JJ Grace, S Mahoney, M Malone, B Keogh, M Mahoney, D Prendergast (1-0), P Raftice, M Saunders, M Duggan (0-1), D Garvey (0-1), G Lawlor (0-1). Subs: S Duggan, J Mackey, P Donnelly, T Maher.

Fermanagh: C Breen, J Woods, B Owens, M Jones, C Quigley (0-3), H Brady, N Mc Govern, K Cosgrove, M O'Brien (0-1), T O'Flanagan (0-3, 0-1free), N Cassidy (0-1), R Jones (0-4, 0-2 frees), P Mc Cusker, K Connolly, C O Brien (0-1). Subs: J O Flanagan (0-5) J O’ Brien, (0-2), S Quigley (0-2), B Mulrone, P McGrath.

Referee: R Maloney (Limerick).

Belfast Telegraph

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