Fermanagh 1-13 Warwickshire 1-18

A somewhat controversial goal from Warwickshire’s Luke Hands was the key score in this frantic-at-times and testy NHL Division 3B decider in Ederney on Sunday.

Hands looked to be well inside the square when he finished a long ball from the outstanding Kevin McKernan to the Erne net 15 minutes from time.

But neither referee Conor Daly nor the umpires reacted so the goal stood.

Hand’s clinical finish put the winners ahead by 1-10 to 1-05 and it was a lead that a disjointed Fermanagh never looked like breaching.

Warwickshire thoroughly deserved their victory with McKernan a huge factor but they were lucky that at least two of their players avoided red cards in the opening half after a few ugly clashes.

As it was, they lost full-forward Ian Dwyer to a second yellow card five minutes from the end but Jack Grealish and Hands were lucky not to be sidelined for heavy challenges in the opening half.

Fermanagh had a bright start playing into a stiff breeze with a fine point from Luca McCusker after a minute following an inspirational one-handed pass from Caolan Duffy.

Brian Teehan added to this tally when he tore through the centre of the Warwickshire defence and arrowed over a fine score.

Warwickshire responded with a David Devine free and quickly gained momentum with two rapid-fire points from Ian Dwyer and recent recruit and ex-Antrim player Kevin McKernan from the Sarsfields club in Belfast, the latter a wonderfully struck sideline cut.

McCusker levelled matters with a free and the home side had a great chance of a goal when Tom Keenan put Danann McKeogh through one-on-one with Warwickshire keeper Conor Cummins who somehow used his body to block McKeogh’s blaster.

But a much physically superior Warwickshire were asserting themselves, getting around the breaks and a lighter Fermanagh side struggled to make any real impression.

The sweet striking McKernan added another point and corner forward Luke Hands along with another McKernan free put the winners into a 0-07 to 0-03 lead by the 15th minute.

McCusker pointed a free but that was to be the last Fermanagh point of the half as Warwickshire took over.

Exchanges were testy and Warwickshire’s towering Grealish was lucky to escape with a yellow card following a melee.

He then was awarded a point that looked about three feet wide.

But Warwickshire were winning all the dirty ball with marksman David Devine pushing them to a 0-12 to 0-05 lead.

Fermanagh managed to get a goal before the break when Teehan found McKeogh with a fine pass and the latter blasted to the net, a score that prompted Warwickshire’s excitable manager Tony Joyce to protest that Danny Teague had struck the ball twice from a sideline cut seconds previously.

That goal gave the home side some impetus as they turned over with the breeze in the second half.

Tempers flared and there was a brief exchange between Warwickshire boss Joyce and Fermanagh manager Joe Baldwin just before the half-time whistle.

Joyce, who was fortunate not to be red-carded stayed on the pitch until both teams left the field.

Tom Keenan narrowed the gap to two points, but the inevitable McKernan put the margin back out to three points.

But the remainder of the half was pockmarked with some brief but ugly clashes as Warwickshire kept a firm grip all over the field.

Dan Lowry and Devine were on target for Warwickshire but the crucial score came in the 53rd minute when a long ball from McKernan was flicked to the net by Hands.

That was the clincher for the winners but it looked like a cast iron square ball but there was no reaction from the umpires or the ponderous referee Conor Daly.

Hands’ vital strike put Warwickshire into a 1-15 to 1-10 lead, and it was always going to be uphill for the home side thereafter.

Fermanagh attacked in waves, but a well-organized Warwickshire side held firm and struck with deadly effect on the counter-attack for a deserved victory.

Fermanagh: M Curry; S McKendry, R Porteous, Ciaran Duffy (0-01); R McGurn, R Bogue, D Teague(0-03f,3f); Caolan Duffy, B Corrigan; T Duane, B Teehan (0-02), L McCusker (0-04,2f); T Keenan (0-01) D McKeogh (1-01,1f), S Corrigan (0-01).

Subs: C McKiernan for Curry (h-t), JP McGarry for Duane (48), J Tormey for McKeogh (56) 

Warwickshire: C Cummins; A Hanley, D Ryan, N Lenehan; O Slattery, C McKeague, J O’Connor; K McKernan (0-04,4f), E Brannigan (0-03); D Lowry (0-01), J Grealish (0-01), D Devine (0-07,5f); K Magee, I Dwyer (0-01), L Hands (1-01).

Subs: R Duggan for Hands (62)

Referee: Conor Daly (Kildare).