Fermanagh 2-12 Leitrim 1-13

Fermanagh held off a spirited Leitrim comeback to claim a two-point win in this opening National Hurling League 2B fixture played at Brewster Park with debutant Tom Keenan producing a spellbinding display of hurling to run the visiting defence ragged over the course of the 70 plus minutes.

Fermanagh had to work hard for the win with Leitrim eating into a sizeable half time lead but new Erne boss, Joe Baldwin, was delighted to get over the line at the finish:

“It was a very competitive game and we knew it would be. I said to the boys that there would probably be only one score between the teams at the finish and that is how it turned out so it is a good start for us,” the Down native explained.

Fermanagh were nine points to the good at half time but down to 14 men they lost their fluency in the second half and Leitrim were the better team with Gavin O’Hagan dangerous from open play and also from frees. O’Hagan was sent to the line however with the referee issuing a straight red to the corner forward with ten minutes left to play.

This evened up the earlier sending off of Caolan Duffy, who had been having a productive afternoon in the full forward line along side Keenan. “We played well in the first half and I think our fitness and sharpness was a little ahead of Leitrim’s. But the sending off came at a really bad time as we were in the ascendency. We had to rejig things but we never really came to terms with it completely.”

Tom Keenan was the best player on the pitch and the Erne corner forward hit a break away score to ease the pressure for Fermanagh in the last ten minutes of the game.

Leitrim still held the lion share of possession however and Karl McDermott raced forward for a fine score and when Enda Moreton reacted quickest in the square to strike home a goal Leitrim could sense that the game was there for the winning.

That left just two points between the sides entering the last few minutes. Liam Moreton struck over another great score to leave the minimum between the sides with John Duffy landing a monster free with the last score of the game.

Baldwin was full of praise for the performance of Kinawley man Keenan: “Tom was great, I really thought he was phenomenal and caused them a lot of problems. Both our men caused them problems inside when we got the right ball in but I thought we wasted a lot of ball to by hitting it straight to their sweeper so that is something for us to work on now.”

The game started with the play evenly matched and he sides shared the first six points of the game with Jamie Ward clipping over all three of Leitrim’s scores while John Duffy had two for Fermanagh after Mark Slevin had opened the scoring. For the next 20 minutes however, it was to be all Fermanagh with Caolan Duffy and in particular Tom Keenan in brilliant form in the Erne full forward line.

Keenan hit 1-01 from play and set up the chance for the first goal which came from an excellently struck John Duffy penalty. Keenan slipped past his marker before playing Caolan Duffy in and he was hauled to the ground by a Leitrim defender.

The second goal came just before the break with Keenan collecting a long ball before turning his man and batting the ball to the corner. There was a little bit of afters between a number of players after this goal with Caolan Duffy receiving a red card.

In the Fermanagh defence Matthew Teague and the youthful Luca McCusker both showed up well with Shea Curran also impressive.

Next up for the Erne men is a trip to Breffni Park where they will take on Cavan and the Fermanagh boss wants to see another two points collected: “The way this league is if we beat Cavan, because they lost in their first game it would almost put them out of the league final contention. It is an important game and I know that they will react strongly to their defeat. It is winter hurling and we have to be up for it but there is a good mood in the camp at the minute, especially after the win at the weekend,” Baldwin explained.