Ranch rustle up late success
McGrath's big return ends in defeat as St Mary's fight back to stun Ernemen
Pete McGrath knows that in coming back to inter-county football he will be exposed to many facets of the game which he cannot control.
However, he might never experience the likes of the freezing fog that descended over Brewster Park last night as Fermanagh opened their Power NI Dr McKenna Cup group stages campaign with a defeat to St Mary's, Belfast.
Manager of 'The Ranch', Paddy Tally (below), acknowledged how their late surge caught out the home team, who look to be behind on their fitness and conditioning work.
"Fermanagh came out and put us on the back foot in the second half and we had to come back again and that was probably the most pleasing thing of all, the fact that we came back twice," Tally said.
"We created chances, hit the post twice and missed a few other chances at a crucial time after half time and they would have given us more confidence. Sometimes you can go on and rue those chances but I have to say the last ten minutes was very good."
"Conditions were poor, let's be honest," commented McGrath afterwards. "We were struggling in the first half to see what was going on in the far side of the pitch."
What he can be assured of, so long as he can last the entire season, is that Seamus Quigley is his most potent attacker. In the first 20 minutes here, the talented Roslea man had five points, four from play.
The scores were the usual versatile range of efforts off each foot that football followers in this county has grown to expect. His talent is never in doubt, but the fact that he has yet to complete a full season ever since he made his debut in the 2009 Championship qualifier game against Wicklow – and the fact that he has yet to start an Ulster Championship game – suggests that you mightn't put the house on him seeing the year out.
It took St Mary's 21 minutes to register their first score, by which time they had slipped six points behind.
They used it as a launching pad and steamed ahead of the hosts, holding them scoreless for the rest of the half. After Peter Carragher had a shot well saved by Chris Snow, Conor McCann latched onto the rebound to drive it into the net.
McCann then hit a rasper off the post before two Thomas Canavan efforts and a beautiful outside-of-the-left boot curler from Aidan Forker put the Ranch into a two point lead by the break.
A Thomas Canavan goal put the Ranch five points up before Fermanagh shook themselves from their stupor, substitute Sean Quigley and Ryan Jones firing over before a high ball into the square resulted in Niall Donnelly blocking off Seamus Quigley, resulting in a converted penalty and a black card for Donnelly.
Six minutes later, Quigley converted a difficult free to put Fermanagh ahead, turning around before the ball had dropped over the bar to address Tally, who had attempted to distract him as he hit the dead ball.
However, a final push from the Ranch yielded 1-2, the highlight being substitute Aidan McGarrity's left-footed plant to the roof of the net and they closed the game out.
The new man in the hotseat by the Erne was probably more disappointed than one would have expected given his late appointment, but he chose honesty in assessing the flow of the game.
"We showed admirable qualities to come from five behind to go a point ahead. With three minutes of the game to go they got the final surge and deservedly won the game," said McGrath.
He added: "There's no doubt it was them going through the middle that got them the goals.
"That's a serious problem we have. It's happened in friendly matches to date and it's something we have to address."
FERMANAGH: C Snow; J Woods, N Cassidy, M O'Brien; D McCusker, B Mulrone, C Quigley; R Jones (0-1), S McElrone; T Daly, N McIlroy, C Jones (0-1); R Ormsby, Seamie Quigley (1-7, pen, 2f), P McCusker
Subs: Sean Quigley (0-1) for N McElroy (43), J Love for C Jones (43), M McAleer for Daly (59), A Boyle for P McCusker (65)
Yellow cards: Mulrone (32m), O'Brien (49m)
Black cards: 0
ST MARY'S: D McAnenly; A Maguire, N Donnelly, M Murray; C McCann (1-0), R Loughran, C McMahon (0-1); P Carragher (0-1), E Bradley; R O'Callaghan (0-1), A Forker (0-1), J Duffy; B O'Hagan, B Hasson (0-1), T Canavan (1-3, 1f)
Subs: R Sexton for Bradley (44), R Johnston for McCann (44), A McGarrity (1-0) for O'Hagan (51), K McKernan for Donnelly (58), T McCaffrey for Duffy (67)
Yellow cards: 0
Black cards: Donnelly (56m)
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh)