By Jack Flynn
Rockland 0-15, Fermanagh 0-11
A late first-half flurry of points was enough to keep Rockland safely ahead for the rest of its Junior A football match with Fermanagh, as they eventually triumphed 0-15 to 0-11 at Gaelic Park on Sunday.
Mike Fitzpatrick was instrumental in the run, scoring all five of his points in the match to help turn an 0-3 to 0-1 deficit into an 0-8 to 0-4 advantage after 30 minutes.
“We did most of the hard work in the first half and struggled a bit in the second half,” he said. “Fermanagh is a good strong team, so we’re back on course for the playoffs.”
Rockland used an aggressive defense style early to create scoring opportunities. Dave Fitzgerald scored first for his side, putting a ball over the bar for an early Rockland advantage.
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It took a few minutes, but Fermanagh began to adjust to Rockland’s game plan and create a counterattack of their own. Rory Judge and Kevin Brennan scored the next three points to give Fermanagh an 0-3 to 0-1 lead.
Stephen Bogue could have put more points on the board for his side, but the Fermanagh man first missed an easy free and then was robbed of a goal on a brilliant save from Rockland keeper Ray Lennon.
Phil Mallon’s point try was blocked down nicely by Rockland’s Tom McHugh, but the rebound fell squarely into Bogue’s lap. But his blast was stopped by Lennon, who dove to his left and used full extension to deflect Bogue’s ball out of harm’s way.
Rockland’s scoring run began soon after, as Fitzpatrick was joined by Gerry O’Riordan and Mike Joe Hennessey in the point-scoring attack. If not for the post and the crossbar, Rockland’s lead could have gone from comfortable to dominant.
O’Riordan’s point was a bullet that beat Fermanagh keeper Adrian Markey, but hit the top of the crossbar and deflected over, instantly turning three points into one.
As the first half was drawing to a close, Rockland’s Jimmy Dwyer was in alone and again Markey was beaten. But Dwyer’s shot hit the right post and bounced away, keeping Fermanagh in the match.
Each team scored seven points in the second half, as Fermanagh struggled to regain the lead. Judge and Phil McDermott scored points early on that cut the deficit to two points, but Rockland would not allow their opponent to get any closer.
Five players scored for Rockland in the second half, always answering a Fermanagh charge with a crippling point. Hennessey was particularly strong, scoring two second-half points and playing fine defense throughout.
With just seconds left in the match, the teams stopped playing football and decided to stage a brawl instead, casting a pall over an otherwise fairly enjoyable match.
“Things got a bit overheated,” Fitzpatrick said, “but thankfully the referees were able to keep everything under control.”
Rockland scorers: M. Fitzpatrick 0-5, O’Riordan and Hennessey 0-3, Fitzgerald, Horne, Dwyer and S. Fitzpatrick 0-1.
Fermanagh: Judge 0-6, Brennan 0-2, Mallon, McDermott and Monaghan 0-1.