POINTS won on the road will be massive for Cork’s bid to get out of Division 2 at the third time of asking, but the Rebels will have travelled home last night feeling they left one behind them in Enniskillen.
A controversial equalising score by Conall Jones with the last kick of the game salvaged a point for Fermanagh against Ronan McCarthy’s side, who played with 14 men for the final 32 minutes at Brewster Park.
Ruairí Deane picked up a second yellow card in the 43rd minute, robbing Cork of one of their best outlets for kick-outs and it was no surprise Fermanagh started to win more ball around the middle once he went off.
Both teams had good spells in the second half — after an awful opening 35 minutes of football — and in the end it all came to the hotly contested Jones’ score in the fifth minute of stoppage time. The forward won an offensive mark from a long pass from his brother Ryan, and then had it brought forward.
“The referee didn’t called the mark, it was the player called it, and as I understand it Kevin O’Donovan is quite entitled to challenge for the ball until the referee blows,” insisted Cork boss Ronan McCarthy.
“If you obstruct the fella who calls the mark, it’s brought in, but the point is the ref (Anthony Nolan) hadn’t blown for it.
“I thought that was harsh on us but at the end of the day we have to look at ourselves and control what we can control and we had enough chances.
“Poor decisions that we made on the ball cost us. We made mistakes and come away with a point when it should have been two.
“But I think the story today is that our new players did really well in a very difficult environment. You’re 7-5 down away to Fermanagh playing with 14 men for 25 minutes or more. So look, we showed a bit of bottle.”
The first half was forgettable to say the least. Both sides packed defence and Cork led 0-4 to 0-1 at the break.
Fermanagh opened the scoring in the third minute with a Conall Jones free but didn’t raise a white flag for the remainder of the half.
Cork’s first three attacks were turned over by a well-organised, committed Erne defence but persistence paid off when Luke Connolly got them on the scoreboard in the eighth minute.
The Rebels won most of their own kick-outs as well as Fermanagh’s in the first half and held the middle ground well, forcing the Erne men to attack down the flanks.
Two of Cork’s four league debutants Damien Gore and Eoghan McSweeney put the visitors in front. Gore took an offensive mark and converted it in the 16th minute and after 14 long, scoreless minutes McSweeney burst through the middle, broke the tackle and scored a lovely curling point on the run.
Whatever Rory Gallagher said to Fermanagh at half time worked, because they came out a different team.
Having stood off their men and showing Cork too much respect, out of nowhere they scored six of the next seven points with five of the starting forwards scoring during a good third quarter to take a 0-7 to 0-5 lead.
Aidan Breen set the tone with a point 20 seconds after the throw-in and Fermanagh played with a lot more belief in the second half.
“The players knew they didn’t set the right tone, they were too pedestrian in the way they went at it, maybe too cautious,” said Erne manager Rory Gallagher.
“We had some great moves but the pity is when we got to 7-5 that we didn’t push on but in order to improve and be the team we want to be those are the situations that we have to handle better.”
Despite the loss of Ruairi Deane for two yellow cards early in the second half, Matthew Taylor’s 60th goal looked a match-winner for Cork in a low-scoring game.
He collected Ian Maguire’s pass, went round the keeper to hit the ball high into the corner of the net to put Cork a point up.
Connolly was too casual with a good chance at his mercy in the first minute of injury time and went for an ambitious pass inside trying to engineer a goal chance when an easy point was on offer. A score then might have killed it.
Fermanagh hit eight second-half wides and missed a few chances to level it in the closing stages but Ryan Jones won the ball from Sean White and his pass to his brother set up the equaliser.
Scorers for Fermanagh: C Jones 0-3 (2f), A Breen, D McCusker, C Corrigan, D Teague 0-1 each, S Quigley 0-1 (f)
Cork: M Taylor 1-0, L Connolly 0-2, E McSweeney, J Loughrey 0-1 each, D Gore 0-1 (m)
FERMANAGH: T Treacy; J Cassidy, C Cullen, L Cullen; U Kelm, J McMahon, K Connor; E Donnelly, R Jones; A Breen, D McCusker, C Corrigan; D Teague, C Jones, K McDonnell
Subs: S Quigley for McDonnell (23), R Lyons for Connor (HT), G Jones for Teague (55), D McGurn for McMahon (65), S McGullion for McCusker (70)
CORK: M White; K O’Donovan, K Flahive, C Dennehy; J Loughrey, S Cronin, M Taylor; I Maguire, R Toole; T Clancy, E McSweeney, R Deane; D Gore, B Hurley, L Connolly
Subs: M Hurley for Brian Hurley (51), C O’Hanlon for Toole (51), J O’Rourke for Gore (55), L O’Donovan for Loughrey (55), S White for McSweeney (66)
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)