Win will be hard erned

July 6, 2010

Qua. Round 2 Fermanagh v Armagh, Brewster Park Sunday 11th July at 4pm

The 2010 championship thus far for Armagh has been akin to an extended run in the Ulster championship. Although the upcoming Ulster championship final on July 18 is to be contested by Tyrone and Monaghan fate has decreed that the Orchard Counties fourth championship outing of the year has seen them pitted against fellow Ulster counties.

The championship season in Ulster opened with the traditional Preliminary round which saw Armagh travel successfully to Celtic Park to take on and defeat Derry 1-10 to 1-7 That victory set up a quarter final clash with Monaghan in Casement Park where only one team, the winners Monaghan, turned up on the day to record a facile 1-18 to 0-9 win. The opening game in the qualifiers produced a meeting with Donegal in Crossmaglen which allowed Armagh return to winning ways with a 2-14 to 0-11 triumph. The second journey into the qualifiers hat, which had the first round qualifier winners paired off with the defeated Provincial semi-finalists in the draw pitted Armagh with Fermanagh. A straight line of form for the sides meeting on Sunday at 4pm in Brewster Park, Enniskillen is that both were hammered by Monaghan in this year’s Ulster championship.

Form between Armagh and Fermanagh over the last few championship encounters decrees that there will be very little between the teams when the long whistle sounds on Sunday evening, when victory for either side will be hard erned. Malachy O’Rourke the Fermanagh manager will be pleased that unlike Armagh his charges did not give up the ghost against Monaghan and finished strong with goals from Rory Gallagher and Daryl Keenan in a 0-21 to 2-8 loss to replicate the fighting spirit they displayed in overcoming Cavan in the quarter final. Like Armagh have since shown Fermanagh are not as bad as they showed against Monaghan whilst not to forget that the Farney army may be a lot better this year than we are giving them credit for.

Paddy O’Rourke was beset by injuries and suspension as he set down to pick his team against Donegal. Brian Mallon was ruled out following his sending off against Monaghan. Ronan Clarke was joined on the injured list by Finnian Moriarty, James Lavery, Martin O’Rourke, Ryan Henderson and Colm Watters. A farm accident on Thursday ruled out O’Rourke’s second midfielder Kieran Toner leaving the manager and his Donal and Justin with a lot to contemplate in their plans to re-ignite the counties championship challenge.  The late Toner withdrawl saw Francis Hanratty drafted into the starting line up to play with the other already named debutant Anto Duffy brother of Paul who has been one of the team’s leading players thus far. There were also positional changes made which, after the match was finished, showed up some previous struggling players in a new light in the new positions.  Young Duffy’s championship debut was cut short by a 10 th minute injury while Hanratty can be more than satisfied with his bow at this level.

Gareth Swift was another to catch the eye with Vincie Martin and Kevin Dyas cementing their defensive positions with solid performances.

The contribution of Malachy Mackin and substitute Joe Feeney against Donegal will not have gone un-noticed as the Armagh backroom squad have plenty to ponder before naming the team to face Fermanagh. If all those who were out injured the last day are recovered and available for selection Paddy will have his hands full in naming the starting fifteen. But the Armagh supremo would prefer this possible senario than the headaches of trying to work with a depleated squad facing into the Donegal match.

Fermanagh manager Malachy O’Rourke will be hoping that his team can muster a similar response like Armagh did coming off the back of their Monaghan nightmare. The Ernesiders never built on their 1-13 to 0-13 quarter final win over Cavan in their match with Monaghan who overan them in all sectors from an early stage of the match. The glimmer of hope for O’Rourke is the fighting finale put in by his charges when all was lost to restore pride and a little confidence. Fermanagh’s recent record against Armagh will also help restore confidence as they know that they have the capabilities to win and should have on a few occassions but their failure to take their scores proved fatal.

Sunday is back to real championship football with the loser confined to the 2010 championship dustbin. Armagh as I have already stated on numerous occassions are a work in progress and have yet to be able to field what management would consider as their best 15. In trying to establish a settled side Armagh have unearthed some talented players who will need time and matches to mature. Fermanagh have been knocking on the door of success for a while but only gaining limited access. The returned Rory Gallagher is there to add much needed punch to a lightweight attack with substitute Shane Quigley making an impression when introduced in both championship outings.

Sunday’s teams were both left feeling very lightweight in the midfield area against Monaghan and whoever can get a grip in this sector on Sunday will go a long way to winning the match. Armagh look better equipped in this area with a variety of partnerships to chose from if everyone is fit. Lavery and Toner seems the preferred option but Swift and Vernon have shown a liking to it also. McCloskey, Lyons and Bogue will have their hands full in containing Stevie and new kid on the block Jamie Clarke. Both of the inside line players have shown that given quality ball they can produce the results. For me the key to an Armagh win is the adoption of an aggressive offensive formation as opposed to a defensive containing system. Armagh are slowly finding more options to help relieve the scoring burden from their main talisman Stevie and it is proving fruitful. The blip against Monaghan is out of the way and their name in the third round qualifiers pot is well within their capabilities. The minors have paved the way by reaching the Ulster final the seniors will keep the flag flying by booking their spot in the next round after a tough battle in Brewster.