Latest: Fermanagh out after scoring fest at Brewster Park
Published: 1 Jun 2014 17:54
Had McCluskey found the back of the net, Fermanagh would somehow have won a game they never looked likely and were dead and buried more than once, trailing by 12 points in the first half and 11 midway through the second half having got the game back to four points early in the second half.
However, McCluskey's effort beat the keeper but Kevin O'Boyle cleared off the line and the very average Ciaran Brannigan blew the final whistle straight after as the Fermanagh team as one slumped to their knees with the final score reading a 2-18 to 3-13 in favour of the Saffrons.
Undoubtedly, the foundations of this defeat lay in the opening period.
A disastrous first half saw Fermanagh score in the opening 20 seconds and then not for over 30 minutes in between which Antrim ran riot and plundered 1-10 without reply.
Indeed, Fermanagh looked to have started well when Sean Quigley picked up a breaking ball, swivelled and fired the ball over the bar within 20 seconds of start of the game.
However, for the next 30 minutes Antrim ran the show with Fermanagh at sixes and sevens at the back. Ryan McCluskey started in the corner on Brian Neeson, but Antrim were lording matters at midfield and running through the midddle of the Fermanagh defence at will.
Antrim were swapping players through the middle, Niblock coming deep, McKeever going to full forward Sweeney going to midfield. This dragged the Fermanagh starting defence all over the place rather than keeping their positions.
As a result, Antrim took over.
Neeson kicked a point from play before Niblock and Neeson again made it 0-04 to 0-01 after only four minutes.
Johhny Woods was then kicked in the face as Antrim keeper Patrick Flood collected a high ball and was replaced by Martin O'Brien.
Antrim kept on the attack though, Paul McCann racing through the middle. playing a one two with McKeever and pointing with ease.
A Tomas McCann free and another point through the middle by Michael McCann made it 0-07 to 0-01 before Paul McCann and Niall McKeever with easy points from play made it 0-09 to 0-01.
Neeson then turned Lee Cullen and fired to the roof of the net and Fermanagh trailed by 1-09 to 0-01.
A Tomas McCann free made it 1-10 to 0-01 with five minutes to half time and Fermanagh looked on the ropes.
Somehow they managed to get something out of the half as the home team bagged 1-04 without reply in the final five minutes.
A Sean Quigley free got the ball rolling and when the same player punched a high Eoin Donnelly ball to the net, Fermanagh had some hope.
Three further points before the break from Donnelly, Paul McCusker and a Paul Ward free made it 1-10 to 1-05 at the interval.
Fermanagh needed a good start to the second half and they got it as Paul McCusker had a great goal chance but fired over after 15 seconds of the second half.
Antrim though were unfazed and the superb Neeson kicked a brilliant point from wide on the left before Antrim scored their second goal.
Tommy McElroy gave the ball away as he broke out of defence and Tomas McCann fed Niblock who rounded Snow to make it 2-11 to 1-06.
The game continued to be open points being exchanged between Paul McCusker and Sean Quigley and Antrim sub Ryan Murray with two points.
Eamon Maguire made it 2-13 to 1-09 before four unanswered Antrim scores gave the visitors a 11 point lead at 2-17 to 1-09.
The introduction of Ruairi Corrigan sparked some life into Fermanagh and two Quigley frees put nine between the teams.
Quigley then intercepted the ball and fed in Barry Owens who rattled the ball into the top corner to make it 2-17 to 2-09 with 7 mins to go.
When Quigley kicked a free soon after the fight back was on but Neeson again showed his class to make it 2-18 to 2-12.
The drama was far from over though and a good point from Marty O'Brien reduced the gap to five after which Fermanagh almost got a third goal as O'Brien had a shot saved and Quigley fired the rebound over the bar.
Unbelievably, Fermanagh were to get a third goal in the 70th minute, Corrigan fed Mark Murphy and he passed on to O'Brien who slotted to the corner of the net.
With two minutes injury time signalled, Fermanagh somehow fashioned another goal chance as McCluskey raced in on goal with a chance to win the game but his goalbound shot was cleared off the line. The final whistle sounded seconds after and Fermanagh were beaten in the most dramatic of encounters.
Antrim lost three players to black cards throughout the 70 minutes but it made little difference in fairness and there was little dispute about the decisions.
See Thursday's Impartial Reporter for the reaction and analysis of the action.