SEAN QUIGLEY’S free taking was the difference between Fermanagh and Donegal at Brewster Park tonight.
Fermanagh 0-12 Donegal 0-08
Fermanagh denied Donegal a place in the semi-finals of the Dr McKenna Cup as Pete McGrath’s side made it three wins from three games to top Group B.
On a baltic Brewster night, Roslea man Quigley provided the match-winning kicks.
Quigley scored five frees as Fermanagh dented Donegal’s hopes of advancing to the latter stage.
Although he did send a couple of kicks wide of the mark, Quigley’s handful proved vital.
Two of them arrived just as the game entered the final quarter, when Fermanagh took a stranglehold on a tie that was on a knife edge up to then.
Quigley’s brace was followed by two scores from sub Pat Cadden and another by centre-back James McMahon.
Quigley provided the magic moment of the night in the 19th minute
Caolan Ward’s punched clearance went out over the sideline, around 30 metres out. There seemed little danger, but Quigley nonchalantly stroked it over the black spot to the delight of the home followers in the 1,333 attendance.
Donegal gave a senior debut to Buncrana midfielder Caolan McGonagle, the latest member of the 2014 minor class to be given a go. McGonagle had been with DCU’s O’Byrne Cup squad for the last two weekends meaning he was unavailable for Rory Gallagher.
McGonagle’s inclusion was one of five changes made to the side from that which lost to St Mary’s College in Letterkenny on Sunday, with Peter Boyle, Neil McGee, Stephen McBrearty and Michael Murphy also in from the off.
In the cases of McGee and Murphy it was their first start of 2016, while Boyle was lining out for the first time in three years, his last appearance coming in a McKenna Cup win over St Mary’s in 2013.
Odhrán Mac Niallais and Ciaran Thompson had Donegal momentarily in front, but Cairan Flaherty levelled things up for the hosts, who regained the lead in some style through Quigley.
Donegal’s attack hadn’t caught fire in the early exchanges, but they landed three-in-a-row to get ahead.
Neil McGee fed Mac Niallais for a fine point and, after a Mac Niallais free, Martin O’Reilly wormed his way into position to clip over.
Quigley, with another free – this time from a more routine position than his previous deadball – drew Fermanagh onto level terms after Declan McCusker soared up to get on the scoresheet.
From the moment he gathered his side together in a Letterkenny hotel at the start of December to plan their journey, Gallagher has talked up the importance of advancing to the knockout phase of this competition.
With a host of new faces in his ranks, Gallagher targeted advancement as an early-season priority to blood those fledglings, but a defeat to St Mary’s College on Sunday wasn’t in the script.
That late smash-and-grab by The Ranch in O’Donnell Park meant that Donegal ventured to Enniskillen knowing that they needed to win by five points or more to stand a chance of playing in a semi-final.
Yet, it was Fermanagh – with two wins already under their belt – who opened the better in the second half. Quigley’s majestic pass out to the right found the scampering Donnelly, who powered forward before drilling over, when he might have elected to go for goal.
Martin McElhinney came on for his first outing of the year at half-time, but it was a short-lived run-out for the St Michael’s player, black carded just 11 minutes after coming into the game for a foul on James McMahon.
Kieran Gillespie – the tenth player to be given a debut in the McKenna Cup – put Donegal ahead in the 50th minute, but Fermanagh reeled off six of the next seven points to continue their perfect start to the new campaign.
Their signs improved in 2015 when Fermanagh got back playing in Croke Park and McGrath has set the ambitions high.
These teams could meet in June with Donegal awaiting the winners of the preliminary round meeting of Fermanagh and Antrim.
By then, everything from the heat to the stakes will have gone up a considerable notch.
For now, Gallagher and Donegal turn to their plan B of going in to challenge games ahead of the start of the Allianz League at the end of January.
Fermanagh: Chris Snow; Michael Jones, Aidan Breen, Paddy McGovern; Declan McCusker (0-1), James McMahon (0-1), Damian Kelly; Eoin Donnelly (0-2), Conall Jones; Barry Mulrone, Ciaran Flaherty (0-1), Paul McCusker; Ryan Hanna, Sean Quigley (0-5, 5f), Tomas Corrigan. Subs: Niall Cassidy for Kelly (half-time), Daniel Teague for Corrigan (50), Pat Cadden (0-2) for Hanna (56), Eoin McManus for Jones (65), Kane Connor for D McCusker (70).
Donegal: Peter Boyle; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eamonn Doherty; Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Caolan Ward, Martin O’Reilly (0-1); Caolan McGonagle, Hugh McFadden; Stephen McBrearty, Leo McLoone, Ciaran Thompson (0-1); Odhrán Mac Niallais (0-4, 2f), Michael Murphy (0-1, 1f), Eoin McHugh. Subs: Frank McGlynn for McBrearty (27), Martin McElhinney for McLoone (half-time), Kieran Gillespie (0-1) for Thompson (half-time), Anthony Thompson for McElhinney (black card, 46), Micheál Carroll for McFadden (60), Ciaran Thompson for Ward (65).
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan).Tags: