By Jack Flynn
Rangers 0-14, Fermanagh 1-10
It took a late point from Johnny Murphy and an incredible save by keeper Paddy Smith to help Rangers prevail over a pesky Fermanagh side, 0-14 to 1-10, in the opening match at Gaelic Park on Sunday.
“It was back and forth for a long time, but we pulled it out in the end,” Murphy said.
Murphy’s point broke a tie with less than a minute to go in the match, and he struck it while playing an unfamiliar position.
“I’ve never really played forward before,” Murphy, normally a wing back, said. “I’m a bit new to that right corner.”
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
But playing on a full forward line for Rangers, Murphy had a fine hour, leading his team with four points.
The victory was not sealed until Smith’s gorgeous save on Fermanagh’s Joe Mulligan with seconds left on the clock.
Mulligan got behind Rangers’ defenders, collected a pass and was bearing down on the goal at full speed. He let loose with a blast that looked destined to break the hearts of Rangers followers and give Fermanagh a shocking victory, but Smith dove to his left and just barely nudged the ball out of harm’s way.
For a match that ended in such exciting fashion, the first 30 minutes were, for the most part, a poorly played bore.
Both teams missed a tremendous number of point tries and all 30 players on the pitch seemed unable to catch a ball that traveled more than 10 feet in the air.
Rangers had five different players score points in the first half, including two from Sean Concannon, to go into the half with an 0-6 to 0-4 advantage.
Phil Mallon had a fine first half for Fermanagh, contributing two points and helping his team stay within shouting distance of their opponents.
Mallon was even better in the second half, putting three straight balls over the bar to give Fermanagh an 0-7 to 0-6 lead. Rangers responded with points by Mike Bishop, Tom Bermingham and Dave Phelan to restore their two-point advantage.
Disaster struck for Rangers soon after Phelan’s point, which appeared to be wide when first struck but curled just inside the goalpost as it went over the bar.
A Vinny Hollywood point try was deflected by Smith right to Fermanagh’s Vincent Cull, who put the ball in the back of the net and put his team ahead by a point, 1-7 to 0-9.
Rangers fought back again, however, behind two points from Murphy and one from Bishop. Fermanagh’s defensive lapses began jumping up to bite them as enterprising Rangers attackers seized their opportunities.
Fermanagh had one more surge left in them, using points from Fergus Bogue. Niall Monaghan and Mallon to offset one from Rangers’ Mike Sheridan and forge an 0-13 to 1-10 deadlock. However, the stage was set for the heroics of Murphy and Smith, and Rangers were able to escape with the win.
Rangers scorers: Murphy 0-4, Bishop, Phelan and Concannon 0-2, Bermingham, Sheridan, Fortune and Furlong 0-1.
Fermanagh: Cull 1-0, Mallon 0-6, McGovern, Mullen, Monaghan and F. Bogue 0-1.