It’s all about the results

March 19, 2019

 ● Allianz National league Division 2 round 6 Armagh 1-9 v Fermanagh 0-6

On a bitterly blustery cold afternoon in Crossmaglen, it was the end result rather than the football played which warmed the hearts and minds of Armagh supporters.

With the prospect of Division One football beckoning for undefeated visitors Fermanagh with opponents Armagh trying to avoid getting dragged into a relegation dog fight, supporters would have expected to be treated to a good game of football.

Not so, as the Ernemen resorted to type, getting everyone behind the ball in their ultra defensive fashion and Armagh constantly recycling the ball backwards as they tried to tempt Fermanagh out of the defensive set up.Trailing 5-4 at the short whistle, it was expected Fermanagh would up the ante after the restart but it took them 33 minutes to register the first of their two second half scores.

From an Armagh point of view, it was all about the result and by inflicting a first League defeat on Fermanagh taking their League point haul to six, with a home match with Cork to come next Sunday at the Athletic Grounds @2pm the Orchard county have secured their divisional status for next year, their objective at the start of the League campaign.

Cork lost a 6 point lead home to Donegal who join Fermanagh on the 8 point mark and have a last League match with Kildare, in what could be a promotion decider. Kildare have accumulated 7 points following their one point win over Tipperary.

Armagh without the suspended duo of Stephen Sheridan and James Morgan announced four changes to the named programme team before Tyrone referee Sean Hurson throw in the ball. Brendan Donaghy and Aidan Forker came into the half back line in place of Connaire Mackin and Mark Shields. In the forwards Ryan McShane and Stefan Campbell gave way to Jarlath Óg Burns and Pearse Casey. Fermanagh manager made one change with half forward Paul McCusker replacing Kevin McDonnell.

It was Maghery’s Aidan Forker who sallied forward out of defence to open the scoring. A fisted point for Jarly Óg doubled the lead and a foul on the young Silverbridge star enable Rian Ó’Neill to stretch the advantage to 3-0. Ryan Lyons open the visitors account with a point from play quickly negated by a Rory Grugan advantage pointed free following a foul on the raiding Ryan Kennedy after he shot wide. Just as it looked like the Armagh side was getting a grip on Fermanagh defence tactics the visitors cuts the deficit to the minimum with points from Aidan Breen and Ryan Jones. It got worse for Armagh when a trip by Greg McCabe was punished by a black card which was followed by the introduction of Campbell for Casey as Armagh adjusted their strategy.

Declan McCusker levelled the match on 27 minutes but amazingly it was to be a another 41 minutes before the same player got his team’s next point two minutes before the long whistle.Wind assisted Armagh took a point lead into the break with Niall Grimley converting a free following a foul on Campbell. Only a point in arrears Fermanagh’s Rory Gallagher and Ryan McMenamin would have been delighted heading to the dressing room and going to be wind assisted in the second half but minus the services of full-back Che Cullen who still had five minutes of his black card to serve.

Armagh brought on Mark Shields to replace McCabe at half time. But it was the total lack of offensive play from Fermangh which saw the game develop into one of ‘school yards break time football’ with no positional play from either side with backs doing forwards jobs and vice versa. At one stage during the second half Jemar Hall and Stefan Campbell formed the last line of defence in front of Armagh netminder Bliane Hughes.

Charlie Vernon doubled Armagh’s lead following a sweeping range of play involving Jarly Og and Rian O’Neill. A beautiful mark from Jamie Clarke was pointed to make it 7-4. Substitute Shields weighed in with his sides third point of the half for a double score lead. 

Both managers made a number of substitutions but the most significant from an Armagh point of view was Ethan Rafferty for Rian O’Neill. The big Granemore man used his physique and power to make inroads along the end line before firing a low shot which squirmed underneath goalkeeper Thomas Tracey 1-8 to 0-4 on 62 minutes. With all now lost Fermanagh relied on the long ball tactic which bought some life to the game as Armagh defended heroically in denying Fermanagh a goal. Goalkeeper Hughes pulled off a great save and a flurry of defenders threw their bodies on the line with some terrific blocking at the expense of a couple of ’45’s.

McCusker notched Fermanagh’s first score of the second half followed by one from Conall Jones before the visitors lost full back Cullen as he picked up a yellow to go with his black card which resulted in a red.The scoring was completed by a Niall Girmley free to leave Armagh comfortable 6 point winners 1-9 to 0-6. Unlike in their previous League games Armagh’s discipline was impeccable as all of Fermanagh’s 6 scores came from play and the Orchard had 9 different scorers as they claimed their second League victory. Armagh are now under no pressure as they host Cork, with the Rebels in dire need of a win to avoid a possible humiliating drop to Division Three football. 

ARMAGH: Blaine Hughes, Ryan Kennedy, Aaron McKay, Paul Hughes, Brendan Donaghy, Greg McCabe, Aidan Forker (0-1), Charlie Vernon (0-1), Niall Grimley (0-2), Jemar Hall, Rory Grugan (0-1), Jarlath Óg Burns (0-1), Pearse Casey, Rian O’Neill (0-1), Jamie Clarke (0-1). Subs: Stefan Campbell for Casey (26), Mark Shields (0-1) for McCabe (HT), Ethan Rafferty (1-0) for O’Neill (61), Joe McElroy for Forker (62), Ciaran Higgins for Hall (70).

FERMANAGH: Thomas Treacy, Lee Cullen, Che Cullen, Kane Connor, Ultan Kelm, James McMahon, Ciaran Corrigan, Eoin Donnelly, Ryan Jones (0-1) Kevin McDonnell, Declan McCusker (0-2), Aidan Breen (0-1), Ryan Lyons (0-1), Conall Jones (0-1), Sean Quigley.Subs: Daniel Teague for McDonnell (HT), Jonny Cassidy for Donnelly (52), Tom Clarke for Lyons (52), Paul McCusker for Breen (61).

REFEREE: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).