By Katrina Brennan
SUMMER may only have begun but Fermanagh’s summer of championship football came to an abrupt end on Saturday evening, in Brewster Park.
A lacklustre performance from the Erne men saw them exit the Tailteann Cup at the preliminary quarter-final stage. Division Four side Laois showed more hunger and desire, winning by two points, on a scoreline of 1-9 to 1-11 in balmy Brewster Park conditions.
Fermanagh’s hopes of progressing to the quarters took a serious dent when Ryan Jones was sent off in the 33rd minute.
Fermanagh manager, Kieran Donnelly felt their numerical disadvantage was a major factor in their defeat;
The sending-off was a major turning point in the game, especially in that heat. The heat really was close, and we had to expend that wee bit more energy,” said Fermanagh manager Donnelly afterwards.
“He’s (Ryan Jones) a big player for us, especially with Laois’ size. They have size across the pitch and to lose someone of Ryan’s stature was massive for us.”
The incident that resulted in the red card was an off-the-ball altercation between Jones and Damon Larkin. The Laois player went to ground but like many in the ground, their eyes were on the kickout, not on the centre of the park where the incident happened.
“I actually didn’t see it,” said Donnelly. “There was a tussle between him and Damon Larkin, Ryan (Jones) was being man marked and getting a lot of attention, I didn’t see it. That was his (Barry Judge) call and it was a straight red.
Indeed, the Fermanagh boss was left feeling ‘disappointed’ by some more of Judge’s decisions as the game wore on.
“I thought a few of the group tackles at the end seemed a bit harsh, but it is what it is.
“We still created chances and didn’t score them. I just thought a few big calls were key; Ryan Lyons possibly could’ve had a free in near the end and didn’t get it and they were all key decisions in a tight game and we were just disappointed with them.”
But as much as Donnelly pointed to some of the referee’s decisions, he also acknowledged the missed opportunities by his own team;
“We were creating those gilt-edge chances in front of goal and missing them but the lads’ effort was tremendous and they kept fighting towards the end.”