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Armagh and Fermanagh renew rivalry

 ● Allianz N.F.L. Div 3 Final

The 2018 May 19th Ulster Championship quarter final match in which Fermanagh will take on Armagh at Brewster Park will now be the third meeting of the teams this year.Following their dour war of attrition which resulted in a 0-7 apiece draw in what were very poor conditions at the championship venue in their Division 3 League clash, the teams will lock horns this coming Saturday March 31 in the Allianz Division Three League Final after Armagh topped the table on scoring difference from their Ulster rivals with both securing Division Two Football regardless of the result of Saturday’s final.

Indeed this is a repeat of the 2015 Division Three Final which saw Armagh capture the title with 5 points to spare, Armagh 0-17 Fermanagh 0-11. From the players that took part in the League draw a fortnight ago Armagh had only 3 players Charlie Vernon, Aidan Forker and Andrew Murninn in action from that 2015 League winning side. Opponents Fermanagh featured 8 of the players defeated in the 2015 League final in the League draw.

A League medal and a psychological championship marker is on offer come Saturday in the wide expanses of Croke Park. Hopefully the weather will not be as cold or the pitch as heavy as it was in their league match. Fermanagh like to play a massed defence and break from there at pace with Seamus Quigley as their main target man. Armagh topped the table on scoring differences despite only scoring 0-7 and 1-8 in their last two outings against Fermanagh and Wexford which goes to show how potent the attack was over the course of the first five League games.

Kieran McGeeney and rival manager Rory Gallagher have the monkey off their backs as they can now plan for the Championship with the guarantee of Division Two football for next year safely tucked away.

The League draw was a feisty enough encounter with little quarter asked or given in what was a typical Ulster derby in truth played in very testing energy sapping underfoot conditions. The Orchard manager has tried out a lot of players over the course of this current successful League campaign and can be more than happy with what some of these new players have brought to the table. Armagh unlike 12 months ago, got the job done, it may not have been in a style to everyone’s liking but it’s the end result that counts with promotion and a day out for a final in Croke Park will do as a very nice Easter present for all involved including a loyal core of support who travelled to Wexford with nothing at stake except support of your team.

The tactical match-ups will be crucial on Saturday as will be the discipline. Quigley will punish every indiscretion from both frees and open play if afforded the opportunity. Armagh on the other hand are not as one dimensional as their opponents with a lot more attacking flair than that of the Ernesiders. Both managers have injury concerns to a few key players ahead of Saturday with their availability or non-availability dictating their tactical take. Armagh will have to use all the Croke Park space to unlock this tight Fermanagh defence whilst at the same time be very wary of their down the middle spine of strength both as an attacking and defensive unit.

Armagh have the better bench options to change the course of the game and this for me will be the deciding fact when it comes to where the trophy will rest after what will be yet another close run affair.