Armagh on the march as they build Croker habit
Armagh 0-16 Fermanagh0-11 Allianz NFL Division 3 Final
Kieran McGeeney and Pete McGrath have much to ponder as they draw up a balance sheet on the outcome of their first league campaigns in charge of Armagh and Fermanagh respectively.
And for both team bosses, after due consideration of the credit and debit sections in the ledger, the balance comes firmly down on the plus side after Saturday night's Division 3 final at Croke Park.
McGeeney's team gained promotion to Division 2 after their seven games, and then defeated their fellow Ulster competitors despite being reduced to 14 men after Finnian Moriarty was sent off in the 27th minute.
Moriarty's dismissal came after a second yellow-card offence, leaving his side a man down for over 43 minutes, yet the Orchard County side overcame that handicap to claim the silverware.
"I believe any time you can win in Croke Park is an important one," said McGeeney. "Just for your own preparation mentally, going into a game knowing you've played on that pitch and you've won.
"Any time you play here in a big game, to have those memories is important. To be able to build that type of habit of expecting to win here.
"Fermanagh are a good team, they were unbeaten until the last game in the league so it was good to win with 14 men and not play at your best,.
McGrath, the former Down All-Ireland-winning manager of 1991 and '94, saw his players shoot a basket-full of wides and end up frustrated at the failure to take full advantage of the extra man.
But he, too, had plenty of positives to take from the run through the league and the experience of reaching an important final at GAA headquarters.
"It would have been lovely to win. Fermanagh don't win too many titles but we came to play, we didn't let ourselves down, we competed, we were manly, we were resilient. We played some good football," said McGrath.
McGeeney's men are reaching for the stars, but along the way they need a few booster rockets to propel them to the heavenly environs at which they aspire to compete and win - ie, the Ulster and All-Ireland championships.
That's why the manager could fault his players for not making more of the chances they created in a game that was more open than might have been the case if this was a provincial contest.
"Between shots and wides, and hitting the post, we were well over ten (missed chances), well over it. I would be disappointed in our point-taking too," the Orchard boss reflected.
"In the first ten minutes, we hit the post, two dropped short and two wides and a fumble right in front of the nets which to me are all the same.
"Five of those should have been handy scores that we didn't take."
Armagh's team in the match programme listed Ciaran McKeever and Aaron Findon in midfield but they did not start, and were replaced by Ciaran O'Hanlon and Kevin Dyas.
O'Hanlon occupied the Armagh midfield slot alongside Ethan Rafferty.
Fermanagh were bright and lively for the opening 15 minutes until the Armagh side began to settle.
Tomás Corrigan opened the scoring after two minutes with a beautifully struck point, and free-taker Sean Quigley added two more before Tony Kernan got Armagh off the mark with a 12th-minute point from a free.
Ruairi Corrigan put Fermanagh 0-4 to 0-1 ahead in the 13th minute.
Kernan and Jamie Clarke had reduced that deficit to one point by the 20th minute, and just after that, referee Derek O'Mahoney gave Finnian Moriarty a booking that looked deserved.
It had bigger consequences when Moriarty fouled Ruairi Corrigan six minutes later. Yellow and red cards were flashed and Moriarty was off.
Despite the loss of the man, Armagh entered half-time leading by 0-8 to 0-6, and might have plundered two goals in injury-time but for the excellent reflexes of Fermanagh 'keeper Thomas Treacy, who made fine saves from goal-bound efforts by Kevin Dyas and Andy Murnin
Ciaran McKeever came on at half-time for Armagh.
His presence enhanced his team's defensive structure and helped to launch some key attacks, as the Orchard team tacked on four points in the opening nine minutes of the second half.
A combination of timely counter-attacks by Armagh, and some woeful shooting from decent positions by Fermanagh throughout the half, effectively tipped the scales in favour of McGeeney's men. Fermanagh relied too much on Sean Quigley, who scored 0-7 of their scores - all from placed balls.
Scorers - Armagh: T Kernan 0-6 (5f); E Rafferty 0-3 (3f); J Clarke 0-2; S Harold 0-2; K Dyas, A Forker, C O'Hanlon 0-1 each. Fermanagh: S Quigley 0-7 (6f, 1 '45); T Corrigan 0-3; R Corrigan 0-1.
Armagh - N Geoghegan 7; A Mallon 7, C Vernon 7, M Murray 7; J Morgan 7, F Moriarty 5, M Shields 7; K Dyas 7, C O'Hanlon 7; T Kernan 8, M McKenna 6, A Forker 6; E Rafferty 7, A Murnin 6, J Clarke 7. Subs: C McKeever 7 for M McKenna (h-t); E McVerry 7 for A Forker (47); S Harold 7 for A Murnin (58); G McParland for E Rafferty (62); C Rafferty for C O'Hanlon (65).
Fermanagh - T Treacy 8; M Jones 6, T Daly 7, M O'Brien 6; B Mulrone 7, R McCluskey 6, N Cassidy 6; R Jones 6, R O'Callaghan 6; P McCusker 6, R Corrigan 6, D McCusker 6; T Corrigan 7, S Quigley 8, C Flaherty 6. Subs : D Kille 6 for T Daly (h-t); A Breen 6 for P McCusker (54); C Jones 6for R Corrigan (56); D McQuade 6 for C Flaherty (60), C Cullen for R O'Callaghan (70)
Ref - D Mahoney (Tipperary)