Charlie Mulgrew’s Fermanagh side have claimed their second scalp of the All-Ireland SFC qualifier series, outscoring Cork by eight points in the second half for a well-deserved 0-18 to 0-12 victory at Croke Park. Having endured a 19-point beating by Tyrone on their last visit to the Dublin 3 venue, the Ernesiders booked their place in tomorrow afternoon’s fourth round draw with a superlative display of direct football and assured finishing.
The vanquished Cork side scored just once in the final twenty minutes in a display that rivalled their inept attempt at wrestling the Munster title away from Kerry last month. In the sides first ever championship meeting, Cork’s Colin Corkery was rendered inactive for much of the second half, but his four points (3f) and the introduction of 2002 All-star Brendan Jer O’Sullivan, who pointed with his first two touches, had Billy Morgan’s men 0-10 to 0-07 in front ten minutes in.
But with Stephen Maguire (0-06, 4f), half forward colleagues Mark Little and Eamonn Maguire (0-02 each) and full forward James Sherry (0-03) in dominant form, Fermanagh sailed through and afforded midfielder Liam McBarron extra time to prepare for his wedding later today. A poor first half saw the sides level six times, with Corkery and Eamonn Maguire the stand out players.
Nemo forward Corkery, who hit 0-40 in the 2002 championship, screwed a second minute free wide but propped the Rebels up with three points (2f) in the opening period. Conor McCarthy set up Corkery for his only point from play in the fourth minute, quickly followed by a Stephen Maguire ’45. Graham Canty shrugged off Marty McGrath to point for 0-02 to 0-01, but another Maguire free and a direct Eamonn Maguire run and point had the 2003 quarter-finalists ahead on 12 minutes.
Cork’s McCarthy, Nicholas Murphy and two Corkery frees were cancelled out by Charlie Mulgrew’s side as the sides shared twelve points at the break, with the two Maguires again on target and midfielder Marty McGrath linking well with Mark Little to square it up in injury time. Fermanagh, at that point, should have been further in front. Two Stephen Maguire frees missed the target and corner forward Colm Bradley missed the goal, a possible point and Ciaran O’Reilly, his unmarked team mate, when through on goal on 25 minutes.
Corkery’s well lofted through ball for Nicholas Murphy on the quarter-hour saw the Carrigaline man chip over when a goal was on. The introduction of 2002 All star Brendan Jer O’Sullivan initially proved dividends in the second half as Cork hit four points in the first ten minutes to pull clear. O’Sullivan (0-02), McCarthy and Corkery (free) were all on target but again the Cork charge waned and five unanswered points, including three for James Sherry and the equaliser on 48 minutes, made it a two-point game with twenty minutes remaining.
Stephen Maguire reeled off consecutive scores from play on 56 and 57 minutes as Fermanagh continued to snipe through a soft Cork centre. The game was turning and with Cork’s Alan Cronin striking the upright, O’Sullivan and Corkery spurning point chances and Fermanagh goalkeeper Niall Tinney saving Canty’s late goal attempt, Mulgrew’s charges battled through.
Substitute Tom Brewster, Colm Bradley, Marty McGrath and Little rounded off the win with the final four points, and Cork sub Anthony Lynch gained scant reward with a late score.
Filed by Brendan Cole