In the first of the weekend’s four National Football League finals, it was a battle between the two least successful counties in the history of the sport. Catch up on the action here.
Welcome to Croke Park for the first of the weekend’s four National Football League finals. We can’t say there are too many joining us so far in the stadium which is largely deserted but even so, a massive day for the two least successful counties in football – neither with so much as a provincial title to their names.
First to the teams and Fermanagh who topped the division with seven wins and a draw under Peter Canavan and they line out as follows: Ronan Gallagher; Niall Bogue, Brian Cox, Niall McGovern; Conor Quigley, Ryan McCluskey, Barry Mulrone; Shane Lyons, Eoin Donnelly; Daryl Keenan, Shane McCabe, Ryan Jones; Eamon Maguire, Seamus Quigley, Tomas Corrigan.
As for Wicklow, who have just taken to the field, they line out as follows: John Flynn; Ciaran Hyland, Anthony McLoughlin, Alan Byrne; Dean Healy, Michael McLoughlin, Stephen Kelly; James Stafford, Rory Finn; Leighton Glynn, Darragh O’Sullivan, Darren Hayden; Tony Hannon, Seanie Furlong, John McGrath
Both sides now out to a couple of roars, but Croke Park is largely deserted. Just adds to the debate about venue. Sure, the players like to line out here but at what cost?. Already has the feel of a challenge game and they are only warming up.
Oops, seems I may have posted to the Ulster-Edinburgh blog there. Icy up here and brain freezing over. But I’m sure they want to know too. Anyway, the game is on!
1 mins: Fermanagh 0-1 Wicklow 0-0, Semaus Quigley feeds Barry Mulrone who pops over from a tight angle. Decent score.
5 mins: Fermanagh winning ball around the middle early, hitting it high in on top of Seamus Quigley at full-forward, he finally wins one clean but is denied by a fine save.
8 mins: Fermanagh 0-2 Wicklow 1-1, Just as we speak, James Stafford wins a free, hits it long to Seanie Furlong and he buries it. Two great names from the O’Dwyer era combine. And there’s more. Furling knocks over a close range free.
11 mins. Fermanagh 0-2 Wicklow 1-2, Furlong with a sweet free from the right. Remember you can follow us on Twitter at @thescore_ie where Cian Malone asks what are your predicted outcomes for the Fermanagh v Wicklow match? Such a hard call, Wicklow look the more dangerous and direct up front so far though.
14 mins: Fermanagh 0-3 Wicklow 1-3, Game all over the place as Quigley pops over a dead ball, his second of the day before Furlong responds. Midfield breaking even thus far and both sides hitting it in high and early on top of the full-forwards who are doing well.
18 mins: Fermanagh 0-3 Wicklow 2-5, Wicklow beginning to take over as the Fermanagh half-back line is non-existent and the full-back line is being overrun. Furlong wins yet another high ball, he’s tormenting Brian Cox and the ball spills to Leighton Glynn who hits a chip shot just over. Seconds later Ciaran Hyland bursts through, his initial shot is parried but he nails the rebound. There’s more, James Stafford hammers one into the breeze and over. 1-2 in a matter of seconds.
20 mins: You’d wonder what Banty is thinking watching on? Serious power and intent being shown by Wicklow since James Stafford started to get on top in the middle. Seanie Furlong is quite the target man with Glynn jinking around just off him.
21 mins: Fermanagh 0-4 Wicklow 2-6, Speaking of Stafford he hits his second long-range effort of the day before Eamon Maguire gets one back for Fermanagh. They are in serious trouble though.
23 mins: Fermanagh 1-5 Wicklow 2-6, Conor Quigley points, Eoin Donnelly goals after a long run from the middle goes unmarked, game back on. But it’s so open, this defence won’t do come championship for either side.
26 mins: Paul O’Brien asking are both teams already promoted. Indeed they are. A short answer but we are trying to hang onto our cup of coffee on 7th floor of Croke Park after the cheese sandwich entered the atmosphere moments ago. Seriously windy up here, less so on the deck though.
30 mins: Fermanagh 1-6 Wicklow 2-7, Still Wicklow by four but could have been more as John McGrath is the latest to ghost through the Fermanagh defence but his shot is well-stopped. Tomas Corrigan scores immediately at the other end but Leighton Glynn cancels it out. Still wide open out there. More goals surely on the way.
32 mins: Fermanagh 1-8 Wicklow 2-7, Two more points for Tomas Corrigan from the corner, he didn’t have a lot of space for the second one but he’s been very accurate.
Half-time: Fermanagh 1-9 Wicklow 2-8, Daryl Keenan draws Fermanagh closer before Tony Hannon tries to put the ball out over the Canal End, while between the posts. Some point and what a half. All over the place, with awful defending but who cares. Hugely entertaining.
All this on the week Liam O’Neill insists football is boring and a review committee is needed. Surely our president remembers the days when Division 4 consisted of 30 junior footballers in an unattractive mud wrestle. This has been open and entertaining with some great scoring. There’s the caveat of a lack of defensive intensity, but what do people expect from two teams at this level. Looking forward to the second half.
As for who’ll win, hard call. Fermanagh going around defenders, Wicklow through them, all resulting in a lot of scores. Midfield key and James Stafford will have a big say on second half, positive or negative.
Two cups of coffee ordered for the second half, not to stay awake but to keep the fingers warm. Think I just saw Shackleton wandering past.
Wicklow on field for second half. It’s quite an achievement for them in particular to be here. Harry Murphy has done something Mick O’Dwyer couldn’t do and has done something arguably more important than O’Dwyer did despite all those special days. Promotion was the only way Wicklow football could ever truly improve in the long term.
Peter Canavan has done well too, although he could never really lose. Fermanagh were the worst team in football in 2011 because of off field problems and things could only get better under the Tyrone native. But they’ve got a whole lot better and quickly.
Second-half underway. Barry Owens on for Niall McGovern, he’s needed too, to solve a big problem in around the Fermanagh square.
37 mins: Fermanagh 1-9 Wicklow 2-9, Good purposeful start to the second half by the Leinster side. Darren Hayden has a point flagged wide but Wicklow get on with it and Tony Hannon knocks over. Up the other end, we now have 28 players in the Wicklow half as Seanie Furlong makes a last-gasp block. That’s commitment.
42 mins: Poor refereeing from Fergal Kelly of Longford. An altercation between Seanie Furlong and Seamus Quigley sees the Wicklow man dropped and it’s right in front of the linesman. Yellow card given but either Quigley did something, it was seen and it’s red, or nothing happened and no card is needed. Ref bottled that. At least it heated things up as James Stafford celebrates a catch like John Mullane.
46 mins: Fermanagh 1-9 Wicklow 2-10, Rory Finn puts Wicklow further ahead but John Flynn makes more important contribution saving point blank from Tomas Corrigan. Since that Quigley-Furlong altercation, very much heavyweight for those boxing fans out there, Wicklow have looked like they want it more.
48 mins. Both sides making a change, Peader Burke on for Darragh O’Sullivan for Wicklow while Daniel Kille replaces Ryan Jones for Fermanagh.
50 mins: Fermanagh 1-9 Wicklow 2-12, Seanie Furlong and Tony Hannon frees push Wicklow further ahead, getting away from Peter Canavan as his side look a little ragged and haven’t scored in this half as of yet. They are struggling around the middle and while Wicklow don’t pose the same goal threat since Barry Owens’ introduction, they’ve been great from longer distance.
52 mins: Just as we talk of midfield, in comes Marty McGrath for Fermanagh. He and Paul Ward replace Barry Mulrone and Eamom Maguire.
56 mins: Fermanagh 1-10 Wicklow 2-12, Finally, 21 minutes into the half, Fermanagh score as Paul Ward swings over a free. They need a huge final 15 though as Wicklow still look the better and more composed side.
61 mins: Fermanagh 1-10 Wicklow 2-13, Might just be it as Rory Finn, who has gotten forward superbly, clips over to give Wicklow a six-point lead. But it’s been their defence that deserves huge credit. They have tackled well, in numbers, and broken quickly. Fermanagh have struggled to get a shot off.
62 mins: Fermanagh 1-10 Wicklow 2-14, That’s surely it now as Finn gets forward again to point. Paul Earls replaces John McGrath to the sort of ovation that suggests this is over.
66 mins: Fermanagh 1-11 Wicklow 2-14, With no room inside Daniel Kille, not long off the bench, decides to have a go from about 50 and it lands over. Too little, too late though. Wicklow minutes from a fine victory, although promotion was the real key, as it was for Fermanagh.
Full-time: Fermanagh 1-11 Wicklow 2-16, Tony Hannon and Seanie Furlong round off the game with two nice scores that have been reminiscent of Wicklow’s second half. They played tough at the back, broke quick and into space and the corner-forward and full-forward were left with time and room from close range. Much more settled second period where Wicklow’s defence upped the intensity, something their opponents couldn’t replicate. Eight points is probably a fair reflection too although they need to remember, Meath won’t be anything like this.