Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Section B
A moment of genius from man of the match Paddy McBride turned this McKenna Cup game on its head as Antrim struck late in the game to snatch victory in an entertaining McKenna Cup encounter against a fancied Fermanagh at Ahoghill today.
Substitute Conor Murray was fouled close to goal and as the Fermanagh defence protested the ball was moved forward. The visitors continued to dispute the decision and the St. John’s man stepped forward to send a bullet like shot past Thomas Treacy to give his side the lead for the first time deep in injury time.
From the resulting kick out a flare up ensued and Antrim’s Marc Jordan, who had a fine debut at mid-field for the Saffrons and Fermanagh’s Ciaran Corrigan were dismissed and from the resulting Fermanagh free the full-time whistle sounded.
Antrim were full value for their win but will look back on quite a number of missed chances prior to McBride’s late strike yet there was plenty about their performance over the hour to have pleased their manager, Lenny Harbison and his backroom team.
Playing with the wind in the opening half it was the Erne siders who enjoyed the better of the play and led by 0-8 to 0-4 at the break though Antrim had enjoyed a good deal of possession but the final shot or pass let them down on a number of occasions.
Antrim were much better in the second period and when they moved the ball through the hands at pace, they looked dangerous going forward with Ruairi McCann a good outlet in the full-forward line, while McBride and newcomer Marc Jordan also caught the eye throughout.
McCann looked in for a score after making a good mark on the edge of the Fermanagh square but while surrounded by Fermanagh players, referee Kevin Faloon penalised him for over-carrying as he hadn’t specifically called the mark.
Things got a while to get going as both teams took a time to settle but it was the visitors who raised the first flag as Marc McAuley shot them into a fifth minute lead and they doubled the advantage when Stephen McGullion finished a patient move from out on the right.
Antrim created a number of promising build up but found it difficult to break down a packed Fermanagh defence but they finally got off the mark after 12 minutes with Peter Healy applying the finish after a good build up.
Ciaran Corrigan for the visitors and Paddy McBride for the Saffrons exchanged further scores but on 18 minutes the visitors might have moved further ahead as Darragh McGurn advanced from the left and squared the ball for Tiarnan Bogue, but the Tempo man’s fisted effort came off the crossbar and was cleared.
Fermanagh kept up the pressure and looked to be taking control as McCauley pointed a free and then Lorcan McStravick played a fine pass into Darragh McGurn who curled over to open a four-point gap.
Antrim replied with McBride pointing a free and then the St John’s man played a good ball into Ruairi McCann who applied the finish, but Fermanagh made the better finish to the half with Aidan Breen pointing from the left and McCauley converting a free as Ryan McMenamin’s side led 0-8 to 0-4 at the short whistle.
Antrim stepped up their efforts after the break and their running game began to open up the visitors defence and a move instigated at midfield by Jordan involving substitute Niall Delargy, McCann and Odhran Eastwood resulted in McBride taking a pass on the right and crashing the ball to the net.
Fermanagh responded well with McAuley and McGurn kicking points, while at the other end Antrim wasted a number of opportunities with two dropping short and McCann’s punched effort from close range coming back off an upright with the keeper beaten.
Darragh McGurn responded at the other end with a point following a turnover and while Colum Duffin hit back for the Saffrons an Aidan Breen point from another turnover left Fermanagh four ahead with 13 to play.
To their credit, Antrim continued to fight, producing some excellent passages of play and after McBride kicked another free, a good move from left to right saw Eunan Walsh curl over to leave just two between the sides.
Breen picked up a black card and 10 minutes in the sin-bin as one of the new rules came into play and Antrim began to grow in stature and belief.
Even when Eoin McManus kicked a fine score from range for Fermanagh to make it a three-point game with as many to go, Antrim continued to push on and get it back to two thanks to Conor Murray.
It looked that their efforts might be in vain however but McBride’s quick thinking saw him rifle that late free to the Fermanagh net with the game well into time added and there was no time for Fermanagh to reply as Antrim claimed the points ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Newry to face Down to decide who tops the group.
The Antrim management will be pleased with satisfactory debuts from Ben Rice, Ciaran Garland and Marc Jordan while the introduction of Ricky Johnston, Niall Delargy and Ruairi Scott in the second half added extra impetus to the Saffron effort and McBride rightly picked up the Bank of Ireland Man of the Match award.
ANTRIM: A Hasson; B Rice, P Gallagher, C garland; D Lynch, J McAuley, P Healy (0-1); C Duffin (0-1), M Jordan; E Walsh (0-1), P McBride (2-3, 1-3 frees), F Burke; R McCann (0-1), C Small, O Eastwood. Subs: N Delargy for B Rice (HT), R Johnston for C Garland (HT), E Nagle for O Eastwood (45), R Scott for F Burke (49), C Murray (0-1) for C Small (62).
FERMANAGH: T Treacy; J Cassidy, L Jones, K McDonnell; R Breen, R O’Callaghan, E Shiels; E Donnelly, S McGullion (0-1); L McStravick, A Breen (0-2), C Corrigan (0-2); M McCauley (0-4, 2 frees), D McGurn (0-3), T Bogue. Subs: B Daly for E Shiels (34), D Teague for L McStravick (42), J McMahon for T Bogue (52), E McManus (0-1) for M McCauley (56), U Kelm for R Breen (70).
REFEREE: Kevin Faloon (Armagh)