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Fermanagh Erne unlikely draw

March 9, 2015

ALLIANZ NFL DIV 3 Armagh 1-10 Fermanagh 1-10

It was a sleepless Saturday night for Armagh management, players and supporters as they contemplated how they contrived to throw away a very valuable league point from their top of the table 1-10 apiece draw with Fermanagh at the Athletic Grounds. The Sunday night sleep was made a little better by the other results in the division. A thumping first league win 2-26 to 2-9 for Sligo over Louth was the stand-out result combined with Tipperary defeating Clare 2-11 to 1-8 leaving Armagh’s next two opponents Clare and Louth now currently 3 points behind them in the league table.

Wind assisted Armagh conceded the opening point, but bossed the game from then on until the last quarter, racing 8 points clear 1-6 to 0-1 on 23 minutes and went in at the interval 1-7 to 1-3 in front. When corner-back Michael Murray fired over his second point of the night, on 48 minutes, it put Armagh 1-10 to 1-5 ahead but it proved to be their last score of the game as Fermanagh hit 5 unanswered points to grab an unlikely share of the spoils.

Over the course of the 70 minutes of a match there are a few game changing moments and this game proved no exception to the rule. Near the hour mark following 6 Armagh wides on the trot, a foul on Miceal McKenna left a simple free to be converted to stretch the lead back to four points Armagh players reacted to the treatment McKenna received whilst on the ground, which resulted in yellow cards for Ethan Rafferty and Aidan Forker, but more tellingly a throw-up ball from referee Barry Cassidy. Two minutes prior to this incident the Derry official had over-ruled his umpire to give Sean Quigley a point which left a green flag 1-10 to 1-7 between the teams, little did we know at the time the telling affect these incidents would have at the end of the game.

For me it was some very bad wides in a tally of 14, a hurried last free kick out of defence that gave Fermanagh possession for the levelling score, the removal of the two starting midfielders Peter Carragher and Aaron Findon and forward Aidan Forker gave Fermanagh an added impetus to push on as Armagh seemed to lose their shape and the inability to see out a 5 point lead, after being in the ascendency and of course lady luck with the upright hit three times by Armagh.

Armagh made two late changes to the announced unchanged side that started against Limerick. Team Captain Ciaran McKeever and ace forward Jamie Clarke came into the team in place of Mark Shields and Caolan Rafferty. Fermanagh had Ryan McCluskey back at centre back having missed the win over Tipperary. Both management teams showed the importance of the occasion by upping the ante in their team selections.

Over 5,000 had filed into the Athletic Ground for this clash of the division’s two unbeaten teams, it’s a pity that a few more had not come early to support the Armagh hurlers, who after a terrible start, 2-9 to 0-4 down after 21 minutes, recovered to score 3-14 against divisional favourites Kildare who won 3-23 to 3-14.

Armagh played with the aid of the breeze in the opening half but were a point behind when Sean Quigley opened the scoring with a free but it would be 21 minutes later before the Rosslea marksman would add to the Fermanagh tally. Ethan Rafferty, from play opened the home account and the Grange man, judging the wind to perfection, fired over a hat-trick of frees to make it 4-1 on 16 minutes. Findon and Murnin combined to set up Miceal McKenna for a point quickly followed by the first goal of the game. The ever raiding corner-back Miceal Murray ventured forward, offloaded the ball to McKenna who went past a couple of defenders before rifling the ball past Thomas Tracey in the Erne goal. Armagh made it an eight point game when Aidan Forker fired over a point from a very acute angle. Corrigan and O’Brien set up Quigley for his second point. All at sea Fermanagh were thrown a big lifeline on 28 minutes as Ruairí Corrigan weaved his way in and out through a few defenders before side footing the ball to the net past a helpless Niall Geoghegan. Tomas Corrigan, the brother of the Fermanagh goal scorer (the game featured three sets of brothers on the Fermanagh side) added a point on the half-hour to cut the deficit to 3 points. Cullyhanna’s Miceal Murray, linking up with the attack, grabbed the last score of the half with a great point to leave it 1-7 to 1-3 at the short whistle.

Armagh introduced Eugene McVerry for Murnin for the second half which started with a delivery to the Fermanagh forwards being too long, drifting wide, a similar problem Armagh had in the opening half. A foul on Armagh’s McKenna (which warranted a possible black card) was converted by Ethan Rafferty to stretch the lead to 5 points. Tony Kernan hit the upright for the second time as Findon picked up a yellow for persistent fouling and Quigley pointed a free as Fermanagh opened their second half account after 7 minutes. A sweeping Armagh move involving Findon, Clarke and McKenna to set up substitute McVerry for point number nine, which was cancelled by one from Fermanagh captain Eoin Donnelly. Yet another super break from defence by Murray saw him scythe through the visitors defence to land his second point of the night. Armagh had a firm grip on proceedings at this stage with wind assisted Fermanagh pushed back to attack from deep  devoid of ideas, and floundering with 22 minutes left on the clock. As Pete McGrath rang the changes to get his Fermanagh team back into the game his Armagh counterpart followed suit but it was the changes by the visitors that made the more telling impact as the game changed direction in the last 20 minutes.

A third pointed Quigley free began the Fermanagh fight-back and when he was granted a second point from play by the match official who over-ruled his umpire, it was a 3 point game with 17 minutes remaining. As Armagh continued to be wide of the target, and lost out on the already mentioned McKenna free, Ryan Jones reduced the deficit to two points and a superb Quigley point from out on the side-line had it down to the minimum as two minutes of added time was flashed up. A marvellous bit of fielding by Ethan Rafferty from the kick-out after the last Fermanagh point gained them a free but the quick ball forward was squandered enabling Fermanagh to launch one last ditch effort for a score. Fermanagh forced a free and when Quigley hit his poorest effort of the night the ball was caught by an Armagh defender who was fouled for a relieving, time wasting free-out.

Amazingly the hurried cross field free out of defence went straight to Fermanagh goal scorer Corrigan who under pressure off loaded to his number 11 Jones who made no mistake in splitting the posts for a dramatic late leveller. The final whistle sounded after Geoghegan kicked out the ball with the Orange clad brigade left with the feeling that this was a point lost rather than a point gained.

IT’S A LONG LONG WAY

The line from the song says “it’s a long long way from Clare to here” will be well rehearsed by Armagh supporters as they make their way to Cusack Park, Ennis for round five of the Allianz National Football League. Armagh will travel defending an unbeaten record whilst the Banner awaits them with cracking home form with wins over Wexford and Sligo and terrible away form following losses to Louth and Tipperary.

With just three games remaining, a win for Armagh will kill off the home hopes of promotion, whilst almost guaranteeing Armagh promotion. The Banner up from Division Four last year have mixed the good with the bad as can be seen by their results. The form line between the two teams is that Armagh have accounted for both Tipperary and Wexford who have lost all of their four games to date with Clare losing out to the Premier County 2-11 to 1-8 at Semple Stadium.

Shane McGrath and David Tubridy would provide the majority of the Clare scores but fellow forwards Podge Collins and Pa Bourke can prove to be a handful. Banner Captain is midfielder Gary Brennan who has a great engine with Kevin Hartnett, Martin McMahon and Gordon Kelly strong defenders. With only four points under their belts Clare manager Colm Collins will view this game as vital. A win for Clare will keep them in the promotion race a defeat will put them in the relegation dogfight.

Armagh will be keen to atone for the failings that saw them drop their first league point of the campaign to Fermanagh. The plus from the Fermanagh game is that Armagh created the chances but did not execute them that well showing a lack of composure at both ends of the field at crucial stages of the match. The journey home from Clare will not fell as if it’s a long long way with the unbeaten league record intact and another two promotion points safely in the bag

Allianz FL3 P W D L Dif Pts

Armagh 4 3 1 0 +22 7

Fermanagh 4 3 1 0 +15 7

Tipperary 4 2 0 2 +13 4

Clare 4 2 0 2 +8 4

Louth 4 2 0 2 -14 4

Sligo 4 1 0 3 +7 2

Limerick 4 1 0 3 -24 2

Wexford 4 1 0 3 -27 0

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