What is it with the backdoor system and the sheer inability of provincial losers to advance through this qualifier route? Only three teams have managed to win through the backdoor system when beaten in the provincial showpiece. Westmeath were hugely disappointing in their nine point reversal to the new summer story of the football championship in Fermanagh. Pete McGrath has to be a contender for manager of the year. The ex-Down managerial supremo has guided Fermanagh to Division Three promotion and after an early exit from Ulster has led his charges through several qualifier round successes. This result was no fluke. Fermanagh were far superior in every department. The Erne men were faster, fitter and more hungry for the ball. Corrigan was the clear stand-out player on show scoring 1-7. His goal was a lovely effort, evading an exhausted Westmeath defense to deftly flick the ball past Gary Connaughton to seal victory.
For Westmeath, it has being an extremely disappointing end to a championship which four weeks ago offered hope and optimism. A historic victory over arch rivals and border neighbours Meath in Croke Park is the obvious highlight. The scenes after this contest will live long in the memory but after an unhappy league campaign where third tier football was consigned before the final round of games, the season ended in flat fashion with a hiding against a Dublin outfit who slowly warmed to the task and this evening’s rout. Westmeath had huge losses with the absence of John Heslin from full forward and hard working Ger Egan but somehow even if they were on the Breffni Park sod, they would have struggled to contain Fermanagh. Fermanagh are a guiding light for counties who say that they cannot compete at the top table. Their squad is extremely hard working and with Corrigan and Quigley in their ranks, they have two players in full confidence and capable of scoring heavily when presented with chances. Pete McGrath knows what is required to win this time of year and with no expectation in the next round, can look forward to a trip to Croke Park and test themselves against Dublin. Fermanagh will be a good opposition for Dublin (provided that they do not suffer stage fright) but with Pete McGrath at the helm, I am confident that they will do themselves and their county justice. Fermanagh are now the story of the championship so move over Westmeath. Fermanagh’s work rate and fitness really caught the eye tonight and Westmeath were routed in the middle third of the pitch long before the final whistle. Westmeath’s two week period gives them little excuse on why they were so comprehensively beaten tonight.
Cork’s loss tonight must spell the end of Brian Cuthbert’s managerial rein. Cork have learned little from last year as they started confidently in the league like last year and have faded out of the championship with a whimper. The Munster football final has being the pivotal fixture this season as Kerry move on confidently to the All Ireland series while Cork dejected and lacking freshness from two epic contests in Killarney are now out of the championship. Cork will point to the first Munster football final and the questionable penalty call for Kerry but the replay of the Munster showpiece and tonight showed the weaknesses that have led to their demise.
The midfield area was routed tonight. Alan O’Connor’s influence in the last two weekends was minimal albeit tonight he was getting into the contest before injury struck. Without the talisman O’Connor, Cork had no other options in midfield. The desperation of Cork management in this area of the park was evident in the introducion of Eoin Cadogan (accomplished defender) to the midfield area. It was a decision which smacked panic and so it proved. Kildare were the fitter, sharper outfit tonight and their explosive pace with ball in hand was causing Cork half-back line endless problems so much so that James Lockery got an early black card for pulling down a Kildare player who was through on goal. Kildare’s confidence oozed after this incident and Kelly catching the eye, the Kildare team were a deserving 0-11 to 0-05 points in the lead. The second half started in manic fashion – epic sixty seconds where Cork should have scored a goal but screwed up the chance with Dorman punching the ball to the bar and then Kildare went up the other end of the pitch and scored their chance courtesy of the dangerous Niall Kelly. It was as good as game over. Kildare continued to tack on points at will as Cork defensive and middle third opened up alarmingly to allow Bolton, Smith, Cribbin to score insurance points. Kildare play Kerry next and it will be an interesting contest but when Cork ran at Kildare defensively, goal chances emerged something that Kerry will not pass up upon on. Sky Sports produce two big wins again. Along with the backdoor system’s luck for provincial runners up, a trend is emerging. Roll on the hurling tomorrow to hopefully light up the championship.