It's early advantage Lisbellaw United in the Mercer League as they recorded a deserved 3-1 victory over rivals Enniskillen Town at the Lakeland Forum on Saturday.
The two sides are expected to be the main contenders for the league title when the season reaches the business end of matters and it is Lisbellaw, going in search of a fourth successive title, who have struck the first blow with this win over a depleted Town outfit.
The first half was a even affair with little separating the sides. However, the first goal was always going to be crucial and it was Lisbellaw who grabbed it three minutes after the resumption as Paul McGrath tucked the ball beyond Pat Cadden in the Town goals.
Then two fine strikes from Mattie Keenan and Niall Cassidy made it 3-0 to the away side before Gary Beckett slotted home a late penalty for Town.
And the home side were to finish the game with only nine men as Matthew McAuley was sent off after picking up a second yellow card while Beckett also received his marching orders for dissent by referee Brendan Johns.
Lisbellaw manager James McGrath, while delighted with the win, is not reading too much into the victory, acknowledging that his opponents were short a number of players on the day.
"We're glad to get the three points and it is pleasing to have won the game but it is only three points and it is still very early in the league. Also Town were missing a few quality players for the game but it gives us something to build on although we have another very tough game this Saturday when we play Killen who have won their three opening league games," said McGrath.
Town boss Rory Judge did not use missing players as an excuse and felt that Lisbellaw were good value for their win.
"I have absolutely no complaints with the result, Lisbellaw thoroughly deserved to win. I would be disappointed with the manner of the defeat as I thought that we just didn't show up and Lisbellaw were much hungrier than us," he commented.
Judge also disagreed with the dismissal of his two players which will leave him another two players short this Saturday when they take on Tummery Athletic.
"I thought that the referee got McAuley's two bookings wrong and with Gary Beckett's red card, all we want to see is consistency. It means that we will be short those two next Saturday against Tummery but it is important after a defeat to bounce back and that's what we'll be aiming to do," he said.
There was little between the sides in the first half with Lisbellaw enjoying the better of the opening spell, forcing a couple of early corners, before Town worked their way into the contest.
Mattie Keenan had a free kick for Lisbellaw that he drove into the wall while Paul McGrath then got on the end of a Keenan cross but could not direct his header on goal.
Town though came more into the game as the half wore on and Beckett fired a free kick wide before the same player than had a header from a Frank Wallace cross that was tipped over the bar by William McFrederick in the Lisbellaw goal.
Lisbellaw had a penalty shout waved away by Johns when Ricki Carroll went down under a challenge by Darren McQuade and a half of few chances came to a close with a Beckett strike that was eaily gathered by McFrederick.
Town, who were missing a couple of regular defenders, were further hit at the back with the loss of McQuade to injury and Lisbellaw hit the ground running at the start of the second half as McGrath gave them the lead. A ball to the back post was met by McGrath who steered his shot into the corner for 1-0.
And from this point the 'Law began to get on top as Ricki Carroll shot wide while Kyle McCleery put a good chance from a corner from the left over the bar.
A second goal for the away side did arrive however with 20 minutes to go. A mistake by Anthony Fitzpatrick saw Keenan taek advantage and he drove a cracking effort from the left hand side beyond Cadden to the back of the net.
Town's hopes suffered another blow when McAuley was given his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card and and with ten to go Niall Cassidy made absolutely sure of the points for Lisbellaw as the ball sat up perfectly for him on the edge of the box and he rattled his shot over Cadden for 3-0.
To their credit, Town kept going to the end and they pulled a goal back when Beckett converted from the penalty spot after Conor Tummon was upended by Mattie Maguire.
The home team's misery though was complete when Beckett was shown a straight red card by Johns as the game finished in a 3-1 win for McGrath's Lisbellaw.