Former Northern Ireland talisman David Healy was in attendance as County Londonderry came from behind to defeat County Fermanagh 3-2 at Seahaven, Portstewart.
From the very first minute the game was hotly contested, and it was clear that neither side wanted to lose, with such vociferous support from the spectators in the stands. Dylan McCorkell skied over the bar for Londonderry and Fermanagh’s Jordan Toal saw a free-kick saved in the early stages. The deadlock was soon broken by Fermanagh’s number 9 Kyle Coalter, who was sent through on goal by Eoghan Curran and scored with a perfectly weighted lob over the keeper. It was a finish that the watching Healy would have been proud of. Coalter had another chance shortly afterwards but he put the ball just past the post from close range, which turned out to be the last clear cut opportunity before half time.
Early in the second half the game exploded into life – Fermanagh bagged their second thanks to Timothy Boyd, whose mis-hit shot looped up and over Michael Gilmore in the Derry goal after a surging run from the irrepressible Curran. Almost immediately, Londonderry cut the deficit back to one – McCorkell’s effort from the edge of the box deflected in off the unfortunate Toal, leaving Gary Docherty totally wrong footed. As the tension built in the stands, things began to spill over on the pitch, with a few full-blooded tackles flying in, one particularly late foul causing a small coming-together between a group of players.
There was a hairy moment in the Fermanagh defence when a clearance rebounded back off a Londonderry attacker and nearly found its way in. Coalter thought he had given Fermanagh the all important third goal needed to kill the game off but it was disallowed for offside. The Fermanagh defence was increasingly coming under pressure from Londonderry as they searched for the equaliser that had proved to be elusive so far. And they eventually got it, when a free-kick was delivered into the middle and Caillin McLaughlin rose highest to head home.
Now Londonderry were in the ascendancy and it looked like they were going to get a winner. Jordan Hale broke down the left hand side and tried his luck from distance but it was well off-target. The pivotal moment of the match came when Jake Francis played a one-two with his teammate in the box and finished with aplomb to complete the Londonderry revival. They nearly added another when Matthew Lynch raced away from the defence but, instead of squaring it to a teammate, he shot straight at Docherty. Fermanagh pushed and pushed in the remaining minutes to try and salvage something from a game that they certainly didn’t deserve to lose. But it was not to be, as they suffered their second defeat of the tournament while Londonderry secured their second win.
Londonderry will be looking for another three points when they take on CSKA Moscow in Ballymoney tomorrow, while Fermanagh face Malaga in Coleraine still waiting for their first point of the tournament.
Match Report by Craig Latimer