Enniskillen Gaels 1-10 Irvinestown St Molaise 2-06

Callum Jones landed a long range free with the last kick of the game to give Enniskillen a winning start to their SFL Division One campaign with a one point victory over Irvinestown at Brewster Park.

It had been the away side who had looked set to claim the points as they produced a strong third quarter that saw them come from five points down to push two ahead and seemingly in control.

But the Gaels regained the upperhand in the closing stages and unanswered points from Richard O’Callaghan, Michael Dooris and Jones edged them to a slender victory.

Both sides were missing some key players for the game and with the two to meet in the Championship next month there was maybe a case of not wanting to show their full hand ahead of that encounter. The two sides though will take a number of positives out of the contest while knowing that there is still plenty of room for improvement in the coming weeks.

Irvinestown manager Paddy O’Brien was not overly disappointed to have lost out at the death and was pleased with the display of his side.

“I’m happy enough and we could have won it but that’s the score I wanted going into the championship game against the same side. I thought we showed really good guts and determination, especially in the second half, they really dug deep. The lads tried to play football and get the ball forward so I’m happy with the performance,” said Irvinestown manager Paddy O’Brien.

From an Enniskillen perspective, coach Simon Bradley was pleased with the win but acknowledged that both sides showed plenty of rustiness after the long lay off.

“I suppose you have to be happy with the win,” he said. “Conditions were horrendous and there was lots of mistakes from both sides and it was hard to get a pattern of play. I would also say that there was a lot of rustiness too which you don’t see in training.”

With O’Callaghan placed on the edge of the square, Enniskillen’s gameplan from the outset was to look for direct ball into their county man and he won a lot of possession for his team in the early stages of the contest although they did not really make enough of this with a number of good chances not converted by the home side who will know that this is one area that they must do better in.

It was the Gaels though who were first of the mark as Conall Quinn slotted over a long range free although the excellent Josh Largo Elis answered with a point for the St Molaise side.

Enniskillen were enjoying the majority of the possession and defender Dooris fired over his first of the game to nudge them back ahead although wayward shooting saw them fail to increase this advantage.

And they were made to pay for this when Irvinestown plundered their first goal of the night in the 15th minute. A free kick from Gary Maguire was not dealt with by the Gaels defence with the ball slipping through the legs of goalkeeper Cian Newman to put the away side two ahead, 0-02 to 1-01.

Conor Kelly hit back with a good point after a tidy pass from Jones but Maguire replied with a free for Irvinestown to keep them two in front.

The final ten minutes of the half though belonged to Enniskillen who hit 1-02 without reply to go in with a three point lead at the break.

Kelly and Quinn combined to tee up O’Callaghan to blast to the net and the impressive Jonny Cassidy quickly tagged on a point to make it 1-04 to 1-02.

And late in the half Callum Jones rifled over after his initial effort at goal had comeback off the base of the post to leave it 1-05 to 1-02 at the interval.

Jones was back among the action in the opening minute of the second half as he clipped over after good work by Cassidy and O’Callaghan and he followed up moments later with his third point on the spin to stretch the home outfit’s advantage to five.

However, Irvinestown manager O’Brien will have been encouraged by his side’s third quarter performance as they took a stranglehold in the middle third of the pitch and took the game to Enniskillen.

Full back Jarlath Maguire fired over after a strong run before Gary Maguire converted two further frees to close the gap back to within two.

And at the midway stage of the half they hit the lead as an effort at a point cannoned off the upright and fell to Michael Mahon who confidently swept it past Newman to make it 1-07 to 2-05.

Indeed, the away side moved two in front from another Maguire free and with the game edging towards the finish it looked like Irvinestown might have done enough.

However, Enniskillen were able to turn things around in the closing stages as they began to get their hands on more ball and a fine run and point from O’Callaghan cut the gap back to one point.

Dooris then popped up with his second point in added on time and from the resultant kick out Enniskillen won possession with Matthew Dixon fouled just beyond 40 metres out. And Jones stepped up and let fly with the ball sailing over the bar to see Enniskillen snatch the win.