Fermanagh 2-15 Limerick 4-07

Eimear Smyth scored 1-12 as Fermanagh produced a stunning comeback to book their place in the Lidl Ireland NFL Division Four final with a two point victory over Limerick in Kinnegad, Westmeath on Saturday.

Johnny Garrity’s side looked dead and buried at the interval as they trailed by 11 points, 4-06 to 1-04, but they turned the game on it’s head in the second half to battle back for the victory.

The Erne side chipped away at points throughout the second half although with ten minutes to go they still were six points adrift.

However, the excellent Smyth then swooped for a goal and Fermanagh rattled off the final six points of the contest to set up a final meeting with Antrim on May 4.

Manager Johnny Garrity was understandably delighted with his side’s second half display.

“It was a fantastic second half performance. We had given ourselves a mountain to climb but we have a habit of finishing games very strongly and that is down to them not knowing when they are beaten. In the end we were able to do enough to win it,” he said.

After a disappointing first half, Garrity says that the half time team talk was not difficult.

“They knew they had fallen below the standards that they set for themselves and they were angry with themselves but we knew that if they could reach the standard that they had reached during the league then they would give themselves a chance,” he added.

On Smyth’s performance, he added: “I don’t like to single anybody out but it was impossible to ignore Eimear’s performance. The best compliment I can pay her is that it didn’t come as a surprise, I have yet to see an opponent get the better of her and that is even with sweepers playing in front of her but Eimear knows that it is down to the other players getting her in the position to score,” said Garrity.

Next up for Fermanagh is a meeting with Antrim in the final and it is a game with plenty at stake.

“It is not just about winning the league if you win the final, with only one team going up it is also about promotion and you can be sure that both Fermanagh and Antrim will be doing everything they can on the day to win the game.

“It will be a tight, tough game and we would expect a dog fight with what is at stake,” commented the Fermanagh manager.

It was Fermanagh who had started the game the brighter as they raced into an early 1-02 to 0-00 lead. The Fermanagh goal was the first score of the game, captain Joanne Doonan slotting home after good work by Courtney Murphy in the third minute.

With Smyth tagging on two points it was Fermanagh who were in the ascendancy in the opening exchanges but Limerick soon settled to the task and they quickly hit back.

Caitriona Davis knocked over the opening two points for the Treaty before they swooped for their first goal in the 11th minute as Cathy Mee palmed to the net after being teed up by Rebecca Delee.

And after this Limerick started to take control of matters to pull clear. Moments after Mee’s goal, Mairead Kavanagh blasted beyond Fermanagh goalkeeper Roisin Gleeson.

Smyth and Davis traded points after this but Limerick had their tails up and both Mee and Kavanagh went on to bag their second goals of the day to take a firm grip on proceedings.

Indeed, Fermanagh were only to notch one further point over the remainder of the half, that coming from Smyth, but with Kavanagh, Davis and Ambrose all clipping over points, Limerick went in with a sizeable 11 point cushion at the break.

Whatever was said in the Fermanagh changing room at half time though had the desired effect as they came flying out of the blocks at the start of the second half.

Fermanagh showed great character as they started to eat into the deficit with Smyth (4) and Doonan on target as they hit the first five points of the half.

Limerick did answer with a point from Davis but things were to go from bad to worse for them as Mee was sinbinned in the 47th minute.

With the momentum having firmly swung in their favour, Fermanagh continued to close the gap and a Blaithin Bogue point along with another from Smyth reduced the gap to five with ten minutes left on the clock.

Limerick were then reduced to 13 as Hanley was yellow carded and when Doonan teed up Smyth for a goal with seven minutes to go it left two points dividing the sides, 4-07 to 2-11.

Doonan then left the minimum between the sides and as the game moved towards added on time Smyth hit the equaliser.

There was only ever going to be one winner at this stage and two further Smyth points in added on time rounded off a wonderful second half and a memorable comeback.