Mullingar trip a chance to make amends and get monkey off the back
Saturday June 12, 2010. Fermanagh defeated Cavan in Kingspan Breffni Park by a goal, 1-13 to 0-13, to progress through to the last four of theUlster Championship.
Hopes were high that evening that, despite relegation to Division Four earlier that year, Fermanagh could push on and make it through to a second Ulster final in three years with a semi-final meeting with Monaghan awaiting for them, and it was the third year in a row that Fermanagh had won an Ulster Championship first round game.
That Cavan win though was to be Fermanagh’s last in either Ulster or the Qualifiers with Monaghan easily seeing off Malachy O’Rourke’s side in the semi-final to make the decider.
It has been a barren run since and one that continued last Sunday when Cavan claimed a two point victory at Brewster Park to, co-incidentally, set up a semi-final clash with O’Rourke’s Monaghan.
Peter Canavan had spoken last week of the fact that at least half of his squad did not know what it was like to taste championship victory – there was nine of his starting 15 who have never featured in a Fermanagh championship win – and it makes the Westmeath clash next weekend all the more important as you want to get that monkey off your back as soon as possible. A win in Mullingar would be an enormous confidence boost for this group of players and one that would be reward for the huge effort they have put in this season. And it will be a great chance for them to show they are better than Sunday suggested.
Last Sunday was disappointing, and that disappointment will have been most acutely felt by the players and management as they know that they did not play to their potential. Fermanagh went into the game with the belief that they would win but were slow out of the blocks, appeared jittery and nervous as they struggled to breach an impressive and stubborn Cavan defence and were not helped by continually losing the ball in the tackle.
It has to be said, Cavan were superb defensively. They were physical and their tackling was ferocious and disciplined. Out of everything though Canavan will be most disappointed with the amount of times that players carried the ball into the tackle only to lose possession. The quick movement of the ball that was feature of the league campaign was not there and Fermanagh were getting as far as the Cavan half back line and then were being stripped of the ball.
Fermanagh needed to put an early score on the board to settle them down but chances went begging in the opening stages. Cavan raced into a 0-04 to 0-00 although, interestingly, during this period of Cavan dominance, neither of their main attacking threats, Martin Dunne or Eugene Keating were making an impact with Ryan McCluskey doing a good job in front of the duo while Johnny Woods and Brian Cox were sticking tight to their men. Cian Mackey though was a real menace in the first half, dropping deep to pick up possession and darting forward as well as forcing a number of turnovers.
Fermanagh failed to score until the 26th minute when Ryan Jones powered over and this did kick start the side, as did the introduction of Tomas Corrigan who gave the attack more purpose. Corrigan fired over with his first touch and maybe should have been included from the start along with Daniel Kille who also impressed when he came on.
Indeed, as half time approached Sean Quigley had the opportunity to cut the gap back to a single point from a free. However, his effort dropped short and Cavan broke forward for Keating to score, making it a two point swing. The Breffnimen were also getting the little breaks and that point typified this with the burst forward seeing David Givney having the chance to score. His effort was superbly blocked by Brian Cox only for the ball to spill to Keating to fire over. Keating then rattled over another wonderful point to give Cavan a deserved four point lead at the interval.
The second half though, was to see Fermanagh raise their game, led by the magnificent Eoin Donnelly. Donnelly drove forward from midfield, breaking tackles and putting Cavan onto the back foot. Cavan had a number of players who performed well on the day but in my view Donnelly was the best player on the pitch and his display was remarkable given that he had suffered a broken leg only three months previously.
He landed the first point of the half and midfield partner Marty McGrath also banged over a score as he too came more into things. Canavan also switched Marty O’Brien on to Mackey and that, along with a heavy challenge Mackey shipped from Sean Quigley, quietened the Cavan livewire down a bit in the second half.
With ten minutes to go, the game was there to be won with Fermanagh having showed great character to fight their way back to level the game.
But Canavan’s side reverted back to what they had been doing in the opening 25 minutes of the game as they gave away possession and at times took the wrong option and were turned over.
In the end, Cavan were to take the lead four minutes from time through a tremendous Dunne point from the left, which was the best score of the game, especially given its importance, and they sealed the win with a Dunne free to finish up two point winners.
Cavan deserved their win. As has been already said, they were brilliant in their defensive duties and while Fermanagh worked hard to reduce the influence of Dunne and Keating, there was little the defence could do to stop a couple of quality points that the pair kicked from play.
So, it is into the Qualifiers for Fermanagh, a competition that has not seen a Fermanagh victory since 2006, and it is not going to be easy to lift the players after that defeat. It is though a chance for Fermanagh to redeem themselves and put a bad performance behind them. It is time to put what was a bad day at the office against Cavan to bed. It’s done and dusted now and there are lessons to be learned, but the game in Mullingar will be an opportunity and for the Fermanagh players and management to show that they are better than that performance.
This is a group who have put in a serious amount of effort and work since the start of the season and they will be determined to bounce back in Mullingar
Canavan will want a response, and more importantly the players will want to respond, and as Shane McCabe said there is no better way to get a bad performance out of the system than producing a good one.
This article appeared in Impartial Reporter 20 Jun 13