Disappointing draw clinches promotion
● NFL Armagh 0-07 Fermanagh 0-07
Disappointment at only leaving Brewster Park with a 0-7 apiece draw in their penultimate League game was completely offset by the fact that the point gained was sufficient to help Armagh, management and team achieve their primary goal for 2018 Promotion to Division Two of the Allianz National Football League, with a round of fixtures remaining.
At a bitterly cold, very windy, snow free Enniskillen what this top of the table clash lacked in quality was more than made up for with intensity as both teams laid down a Championship marker for Ulster Championship meeting in a couple of months time. Red, yellow and Black cards were dished out like confetti, off the ball niggles, goalmouth scrambles, missed goal chances, woodwork to the rescue and penalty claims denied certainly warmed the bodies and minds of those in attendance. As was said it was a typical tight Ulster derby.
A strong wind decreed that this would be a game of two halves and so it proved as Fermanagh with the elements led 5-1 at the short whistle. Armagh won the second half 6-2 but tellingly the home side had only 13 players over the course of the final 10 minutes as substitute Daniel Teague (straight red) and Aidan Breen (2 yellows) were dismissed within 3 minutes of each other. At the death Armagh’s Paddy Burns on a yellow, got a black card which converted to red.
That Armagh managed a single point in the opening half through a Stephen Sheridan (black carded early in the second half) effort, which should really have been goaled on 23 minutes, with the same hitting the crossbar earlier, when the home side led 3-0. Fermanagh did not score from play at all in the second half with their 2 points coming from frees converted by Seamus Quigley to go with the 3 he had scored in the first half. After Armagh’s Niall Grimley was wide of the mark with two frees with the game tied at 7 all Quigley missed a winning free for Fermanagh with literally the last kick, that would have given them a famous victory under the circumstances.
Four minutes into the game Barry Mulrone fired Fermanagh into a lead that they never relinquished for the remainder of the game. Two minutes after the opening score the home side scored twice inside a minute firstly through a Quigley free and from the kick-out Aidan Breen made it 3-0. On 14 minutes another Quigley free stretched the lead to four before midfielder Sheridan opened the Orchard account after 23 minutes. Quigley had a point attempt bounce off the crossbar before completing the first half scoring with his third free. The Orchard tactic in the first half was clear to limit Fermanagh’s scoring chances as they literally “parked the bus” leaving full forward Andrew Murnin as a lonely isolated figure. It was not pretty but it worked as a 4 point deficit on a very heavy pitch against a very strong breeze was not a huge task to overcome in the second half.
Armagh were far more positive in the second half doubling their points total inside 30 seconds as Oisin MacIomhair got on the scoresheet followed by a hectic 5 minutes of Orchard pressure. Grimley picked up a yellow, Murnin squandered a goal chance, Crealey was wide of the mark as Rory Grugan and Aidan Forker both saw yellow and Sheridan black (replaced by Aaron Findon), Grugan and Murnin took the Orchard wides tally into double figures. As Colm Watters was replaced by Anto Duffy a Grugan free left it 5-3 after 11 minutes. In this first foray deep into Armagh territory Corrigan drew a soft free converted by Quigley which doubled the scores On the quarter hour the impressive Forker raided successfully from deep, notching a super point but 5 minutes later another Quigley free restored the green flag advantage 7-4 with what was to be the last Fermanagh score. Ryan Kennedy was replaced by Ronan Lappin as Armagh claims for what looked like a blatant penalty turned into a converted Grugan free with the same player on hand after a Forker effort came back off the upright to make it a one point game with 13 minutes remaining. Another Grimley point squared the match and it turned out to be the last score of the game as the flurry of cards and missed chances had everyone up and down, off their seats as Fermanagh manfully held out to claim a draw against all the odds.
Armagh into the League final
Regardless of the result away to already relegated Wexford next Sunday, Armagh have booked their place in the Division Three League Final on Easter Saturday in Croke Park. With promotion achieved and their last result insignificant manager, Kieran McGeeney will be able to rest a few players ahead of the final, which will give any niggling injuries an extra recovery week. Who will Armagh meet in the final? The other finalists will come from “the winner takes all contest” at Pearse Park, Longford when the home team take on Fermanagh. Not alone is a place in the March 31 final on offer but promotion to Division Two.
On a curtailed weekend of football activity due to the snow there were 4 teams with a 100% record before play. Three of those 4 teams Armagh, Dublin and Galway all drew leaving Carlow champions of Division Four as currently the only 100% team in the country. Congratulations to Steven Poacher who is on the Carlow backroom team that has achieved promotion out of Division Four for the first time in 33 years.
Allianz FL3 P W D L Dif Pts
Armagh 6 5 1 0 34 11
Longford 6 4 1 1 27 9
Fermanagh 6 4 1 1 18 9
Westmeath 6 4 0 2 1 8
Derry 6 2 0 4 -2 4
Sligo 5 1 1 3 -22 3
Offaly 5 1 0 4 -27 2
Wexford 6 0 0 6 -29 0