Fermanagh 1-11 Leitrim 2-11

Fermanagh fell to their second defeat in two games in division 3B of the National Hurling League at the weekend. In an entertaining encounter played at the Bawnacre Centre in Irvinestown a single goal separated the sides at the final whistle as Leitrim claimed the two points on offer.
Fermanagh held a one-point lead entering the last 20 minutes of the game but the sending off of JP McGarry was to prove a turning point. Reflecting on the game Fermanagh boss, Sean Duffy, was in a conflicted mood;
“Obviously you are never happy when you lose but at the same time, I thought we played much better than we did the first day out. The boys really went at it and played with more conviction and we would be disappointed not to get anything from the game,” Duffy explained.
Fermanagh were well beaten by Lancashire in the opening round of the league and Sunday’s defeat against Leitrim certainly represented a much-improved performance.
The sides were evenly matched for much of the opening half. Fermanagh opened up well and were two points to the good after five minutes with Thomas Cleary and JP McGarry on target. Leitrim came back well however and hit the next four points with the lively Cathal O’Donovan accurate from play and Clement Cuniffe landing two frees.
Ryan Bogue from play and John Duffy from a free had things all tied up again before Cuniffe edged Leitrim ahead as the half-time whistle approached. There was time for one more score however and it came from the hurl of Colm Moreton who swept the ball to the Fermanagh net to give his side a four-point cushion at the break.
Fermanagh were operating with Thomas Cleary as a sweeper and for the most part were keeping Leitrim at bay but they were also left short in attack and at times struggled to maintain possession in the forward line.
The start of the second half saw the home side start with much greater impetus however and they were to turn that four-point deficit into a point lead playing some excellent hurling in the process. Bogue was much to the fore at this stage shooting points from play and frees while John Duffy reacted quickest to a long Shea Curran drive to find the Leitrim net.
The somewhat harsh sending off of McGarry for striking was to derail the Erne effort however and Leitrim were to regain the initiative with Zak Moradi batting home the crucial score of the game from a Ben Murray pass.
Fermanagh battled hard but with each score, two of which were supplied by John Duffy, they got, Leitrim, through the accurate striking of Cunniffe were able to answer with a similar effort of their own.
In the end, the visitors held on for a win that they just about deserved but there is no doubt that the Fermanagh performance will raise spirits within the camp and Duffy is already looking forward to their trip to Cavan this weekend;
“We are definitely in a better place. The work rate has been there all along but I just think we are that bit more focused and some of the younger players are getting experience with every game and we are looking for another big performance this weekend against Cavan.”
For Fermanagh there were strong defensive performances from Dylan Bannon while Bogue and Duffy were positive influences on the game, especially as time wore on. In attack, Fermanagh were sometimes lacking in numbers but they looked dangerous with Conor McShea, in particular, working very hard in the full forward line to offer an outlet for his team-mates out the field.