Fermanagh 0-11 Wicklow 0-09

Wicklow left Brewster Park this afternoon pointless despite going agonizing close in a game the Garden County were the better attacking side but wasteful in front of goal. Wicklow played with passion, determination and guts but missed opportunities saw them fail to add to the 2 points they picked up against Kilkenny on the opening day of the season.

Following last week’s smash and grab first half in Aughrim by Waterford, Harry Murphy’s men knew that they would need a better defensive showing this weekend against favorites Fermanagh. Chester Kelly was back with Byrne and McLoughlin in defense. Darren Hayden was a late replacement for Ciaran Hyland. Elsewhere, Paul Earls made a welcome return up front and John Flynn took the number one spot in goal.

In front of a massive home crowd, the Erneside men made the better start with Seamus Quigley and Paul Ward proving a handful as they raced into a 0-04 to 0-00. Kiltegan’s Seanie Furlong got Wicklow off the mark with a thundering point. Both sides exchanged points before Finn made the difference only 2 points.

Quigley continued to cause problems and scored a sensational point from the side line before Donnelly stretch the lead out to 4 points against. Shortly afterwards, Flynn made an outstanding stop to prevent a certain goal.

But all the superlatives that have been listed off about this Fermanagh side were being stripped away by a nervous defensive performance as Wicklow attacked and ran at them when they could. In a crazy couple of minutes, Wicklow hit the woodwork twice.

First off, Glynn found himself with space and ran at his marker, beating him and went to place the shot into the far corner.  A desperate attempt to block him by both the keeper Snow and Barry Owens, saw the ball loop and hit the cross bar, bouncing to safety. Another day, with some luck, it might have dipped under the crossbar, or even went over the bar.

Second chance came quick enough after, Hayden, who put in a brilliant shift, went for goal. The ball pinballed in the square and fell to Seanie who threw his leg it only to see it come back from the bottom of the upright.

There was no lack of intent from the Garden County, but there was no luck either for them.

Hannon pulled two points back, both from frees, as Wicklow started to sense the game was there for the taking. Fermanagh were still dangerous though, and winning most of the midfield battles. A great move saw Ward raise a white flag as the ref blew for half time with the score at 0-08 to 0-05

Seanie Furlong set things rolling with a free reducing the deficit to 2 points before Fermanagh pointed from a free.

But Wicklow were wasteful with their chances. In truth, the ball spent the majority of the second half going in the direction of the Fermanagh goal, but the wides Wicklow were shooting did not do justice to the hard work and build up play that at time had Fermanagh chasing shadows.

No more so than when Wicklow won a free in front of the posts, a mere 15 yards out. O’Malley took the responsibility for it, but inexplicably hit it wide. In games where scores are a rare commodity, you can’t afford to squander gifts like that one.

Wicklow were relentless in attack though, with Darren Hayden putting in a fantastic performance. Everything seemed to go through him in the second half, and he never let up. One such attack created another goal chance as Hayden cut through two defenders to see his shot blocked. The ball bounced across the square but Burke couldn’t get a hand on it to lift it and finish.

Glynn who had run himself into the ground with his hard work, shot across goal soon after and missed a chance for a point as Wicklow tried, but couldn’t get the flags they needed raised.

And so that was it. The ref blew and Fermanagh took a two point win as Wicklow suffered their second successive defeat in a row.

But let’s be clear with something here and now. Today’s defeat, in no way resembled the first half capitulation to Waterford.

Wicklow’s defense was sound, solid and gave Fermanagah little in the second half and little from play for the full 70. Attack wise, we created plenty of chances and with a little luck might have scored a goal or two. In the cold light of defeat, it’s hard to step away and analyse what just happened, and try and come away with positives. But Wicklow go home with plenty. They made Fermanagh look ordinary. They played with passion and determination to put last week right. Hayden was fantastic. Never let up. Glynn as usual gave everything as captain and John Flynn demonstrated just how lucky we are to have two keepers of such quality.

We will brush ourselves off and welcome Limerick to Aughrim next week. Harry Murphy will look to his men to step up again and show that improvement and passion in front of a home crowd.

The ingredients are there, and if it comes together next week, Wicklow will be a hell of a tough team to face.

Starting Line Up: John Flynn, Alan Byrne, Anthony McLoughlin, Stephen Kelly, Michael McLougjlin, Rory Finn, Darren Hayden, James Stafford, Niall Gaffney, Leighton Glynn (C), Tony Hannon, Daragh O’Sullivan, Paul Earls, Seanie Furlong, Stephen Byrne

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