Allianz National Football League Division Three
Fermanagh 1-16, Derry 3-08
Derry produced their best and worst performance of the season in 70 plus frustrating minutes in Brewster Park, Fermanagh on Saturday night.
Damian McErlain's men were shocking in the first half, as Fermanagh cut through them at will to forge a 1-12 to 1-03 interval lead which could have been a lot worse had Emmett Bradley not hit the net in a rare moment of Oak Leaf quality.
It looked game over but Derry gave an indication of the spirit within the Oak Leaf camp by re-emerging to produce their best 35 minutes of the season and come within two points of catching their hosts. Indeed, but for a couple of wayward shot toward the end, this could have been an unlikely victory.
Last week, Derry hit Offaly with 1-06 inside the opening 14 minutes and Fermanagh must have been watching because they decided to copy the tactics with Derry finding themselves 1-08 behind after only 16 minutes on the clock.
Seamus Quigley was the focal point for the majority of attacks but Derry were playing straight into Fermanagh hands. All over the pitch, Rory Gallagher's team were sharper to the breaks and the quick ball inside was leaving Quigley and Conall Jones one-on-one with Michael McEvoy and Kevin Johnston and the Erne duo took full advantage.
Righty from the throw-in, Derry were struggling and conceding too many frees in dangerous positions. Put simply,m they weren't competing.
Quigley got the home side up and running with a first minute free and from the next 16 minutes it was painful viewing for the small number of Oak Leaf fans who made the journey to Brewster.
Quigley brought his personal first half tally to 1-05, his goal coming when he held off McEvoly before breaking the ball down to himself and finishing soccer style past the out rushing Ben McKinless.
From a Derry viewpoint, it was shambolic with Bradley's goal the only real positive in the half.
That came when Michael Bateson showed some great quick thinking to pick himself up after being fouled and pick out Bradley with Fermanagh still disputing the award. Bradley wasn't waiting and strode forward to stroke home a lovely finish that took Derry's tally to 1-02 against Fermanagh's 1-11. It had take Derry until the 18th minute to score through a Mark Lynch free but that goal was Derry's first score from play.
Derry looked down and out and few would have forgiven them for writing the game off in the second half. They didn't. instead they produced a brilliant display that outscored Fermanagh by seven points and after nearly brought two points.
A Quigley free was the opening score but two goals inside a minute changed the complexion of the game completely.
The first was vintage Lynch. The high ball was hung up and the Banagher man looked second best but judged his run and jumped to perfection to punch home a real adrenaline injection for Derry.
that was good and 30 seconds later it got even better.
With Derry pushing right up on the Fermanagh kick out, home keeper Patyrick Cadden got himself in a mix and the ball ended up being played straight to the feet of substitute Dany Tallon with Cadden 30 yards from his own goal and not a defender in sight. Tallon gathered, found the waiting James Kielt who had the easy task of rolling the ball into an empty net.
That was 3-03 to 1-14 and suddenly Fermanagh were under pressure.
From there until the end the game was merely a question of whether Derry could reel Gallagher's team in as the host's final score game through Cian McManus in the 45th minute.
by contrast Derry laid siege to the Erne posts but the real difference was in defence were the Oak Leafers scrapped for every ball.
In the end they came up short but the second half had changed the complexion completely for Derry. They have set a standard now and they must maintain that. If they do, they will safe in Division Three and can look forward to the summer with some optimism.
Fermanagh: Patrick Cadden; Micky Jones, Che Cullen, Cian McManus (0-1); Barry Mulrone (0-1), Conor McGee, Declan McCusker (0-1); Eoin Donnelly (0-1), Ryan Jones; Paul McCusker (0-1), Ciaran Corrigan (0-1), Aidan Breen; Daniel Teague (0-1), Conall Jones (0-1), Seamus Quigley (1-8, 6f, 1 forty-five).
(Substitutes) Rory Corrigan for D Teague (Black card), 35mins; Lee Cullen for C McGee, 55mins; Tomas Corrigan for S Quigley, 58mins; Ryan McCluskey for P McCusker, 58mins; Sean Quigley for C Jones, 66mins; Ryan Lyons for A Breen, 68mins
Derry: Ben McKinless, Michael McEvoy, Kevin Johnston, Jordan Curran; Michael Bateson, Carlus McWilliams, Conor Doherty; Conor McAtamney, Emmett Bradley (1-0); Padraig McGrogan (0-1), Enda Lynn (0-1), James Kielt (1-2, 1f); Mark Lynch (1-4, 3f), Terence O'Brien, Niall Toner.
(Substitutes) Danny Tallon for E Bradley, H/T; Conor McCluskey for J Curran, 38mins; Benny Heron for C Doherty, 51mins; Peter Hagan for M Bateson, 55mins;
Yellow card: E Bradley, 11mins
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh)