By Mark McGoldrick
FERMANAGH captain Declan McCusker said the Erne men have to learn from the second half performance on Sunday if they are to achieve their goal of coming top of their Tailteann Cup group.
The Erne County appeared to be in cruise control at half-time, leading by six points, but they invited Wexford on to them after the break and they had to settle for a draw.
It means that their second-round clash against Andy Moran’s Leitrim has taken on added importance but their destiny remains within their own hands.
“We should have managed it (the game) out,” said the Ederney man, “we had enough time and we still had the lead and we should have managed it out, but we didn’t and we have to learn from that.”
Even though Fermanagh led by six points at half time, McCusker, who came on as a substitute with 20 minutes left to play, was not pleased with the first half performance by the Erne men.
“In the first half, we went dead for 15 minutes,” said the Fermanagh speedster.
“We started really well, we had a bit of control and then nothing really happened for 10 or 15 minutes and they tag on a point or two and we were kind of stale or something.”
McCusker also conceded that the refereeing decisions, in particular the awarding of the penalty and the cancellation of Fermanagh’s second goal, had a big bearing on the game.
“There’s only six in at half time and there was a strong breeze and the penalty and the black card then turned the game on its head,” said the Fermanagh skipper.
“In fairness, after the first incident (the square ball decision), we probably managed that 10 minutes okay but they kicked a couple of serious points and the thing starts to spiral.
“Then you’re caught in a serious battle and end up only getting a point out of it,” conceded McCusker.
While visibly disappointed, McCusker was relieved that his side salvaged a draw.
“You definitely didn’t want to lose it. It means that our destiny is still in our own hands.
“If we win our next two games, we’ll still top the group, but we have to focus on Leitrim and try and turn it around.”
McCusker knows that only a top performance for 70 minutes will be enough against Andy Moran’s men.
“Similar to today (Sunday), I don’t know a wild pile about them (Leitrim),” said McCusker.
“We played them in a friendly earlier in the year, but that can always be misleading, so we’ll just have to prepare better for it and hopefully we’ll get on the right side of the result.”
Meanwhile, Fermanagh boss Kieran Donnelly lamented his side’s waywardness in front of the posts as his side relinquished a six-point lead.
“(Missed chances) that was the big one,” said a frustrated Erne manager, shortly after the final whistle on Sunday.
“We should have been further ahead at half time. We asked the boys to keep the scoreboard ticking and we didn’t ,and we invited them onto us.
“We’ve only got ourselves to blame for that. Those easy chances that we missed, that’s something that we’ve got to address.”
But the Erne manager was quick to pay credit to Wexford, who turned the tables on Fermanagh in the second half;
“In fairness to them (Wexford), they took some exceptional scores from distance,” admitted Donnelly, “I thought (Eoghan) Nolan took two that were fantastic and their ‘keeper (Darragh Brooks) hit two as well. They maximized all their chances and we missed the majority of ours.”