Fermanagh manager Jonny Garrity says his players have a savage inner belief that makes them very hard beat on the big occasion.
Goals from Eimear Smyth and Róisín O’Reilly secured promotion to Division 3 of the Lidl National Football League for the Erne county, after a thrilling one-point win over Ulster rivals Antrim at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones on Saturday.
Fermanagh were 11 points in arrears when they launched a stunning comeback to see off Limerick in the semi-finals, and in the decider Garrity’s players had to withstand a late Antrim rally to gain their first league title in 12 years.
“Things looked bleak at that point, but we showed a great spirit as well as an ability to finish a game very strongly and never give up in believing against Limerick,” said Garrity.
“That was key. There is huge belief in this squad and a real hunger to succeed. Again, against Antrim that was evident.
“It is all about enjoying the victory now. We have Ulster championship in four or five weeks and an All-Ireland campaign after that to worry about. Those things are at the forefront of our mind now.
“But in preparation for next year we don’t envisage going up to Division 3 to take part, we will go and give the best version of ourselves.”
Antrim had finished fourth after the group phase in Division 4, and Fermanagh had beaten them on 10 February. But Sean O’Kane’s side took a 1-6 to 1-5 lead into half-time.
Captain Saoirse Tennyson scored the Antrim goal but as the game swung again in the second half, Antrim midfielder Lara Dahunsi was shown a yellow card late on before Smyth landed the winner from a free.
“We have got a habit of finishing strongly,” said Garrity.
“We have got that in-built mentality that we are never out of it until the final whistle blows. And we back ourselves, I back our girls and they back themselves.
“We weren’t overly concerned at half-time. We knew that the real battle was ahead and what a battle it was.
“Antrim were fantastic. And I am just so grateful that we were the ones who had our noses in front when the whistle sounded.”
Fermanagh: E Smyth 1-6 (0-3f), R O’Reilly 1-0, B Bogue 0-1, J Doonan 0-1.
Antrim: S Tennyson 1-0, C Carey 0-3 (0-2f), M Cooper 0- 3 (0-1f), C Taggart 0-2 (0-1f), A Taggart 0-1, M McGourty 0-1.
Fermanagh: R Gleeson; M Maguire, E Murphy, M Flynn; M McGloin, C Murphy, S McQuaid; R O’Reilly, A Flanagan; L Maguire, E Smyth, D Maguire; A O’Brien, J Doonan, B Bogue. Subs: A Maguire for Murphy (33-39, blood), A Maguire for McQuaid (41), A Woods for McGloin (45), S Britton for O’Brien (49), D McManus for L Maguire (52), A McGovern for Murphy (63).
Antrim: A McCann; N Killen, M Hanna, O Corr; S Tennyson, C Brown, K Farren; A McFarland, L Dahunsi; C Taggart, C Carey, SL McLaughlin; M Cooper, M McCurdy, A Taggart. Subs: M Magee for C Taggart (half-time), M McGourty for McLaughlin (half-time), N Enright for Farren (40).