Relief for McGeeney as Clarke leads Armagh to Fermanagh victory
Armagh 0-20 Fermanagh 0-11
It was only a second championship victory in three years as Armagh manager but wherever in the ground Kieran McGeeney watched last night's All-Ireland football qualifier win from, he'll be feeling a lot better about life as a county manager.
Make no mistake, this was a pressure-relieving victory for Armagh last night having performed so badly against Down three weeks ago.
"The Down game was such a blow to us because we'd been moving so well going into it," said McGeeney's assistant John Toal (right). "We were in the right frame of mind, and it was a knock.
"But the boys performed in the right manner tonight. Their character was questioned and they answered it."
Pete McGrath said he will take "a few days" to decide on his future with Fermanagh.
He'd won four of the six qualifiers he's played with Fermanagh in the last three summers, but their fate was sealed when captain Eoin Donnelly was sent off for a second yellow card 11 minutes from the end.
McGrath's team battled bravely but Armagh had more quality and outscored their opponents by six points to one in the third quarter to take the game away from Fermanagh.
After such a poor performance against Down three weeks ago, the pressure was on Armagh to muster a positive response.
They began brightly with two points in the opening four minutes but Fermanagh are well organised, and they reeled off the next five in a row in a 20-minute spell, hustling Armagh and forcing turnovers.
Corrigan nailed three frees while Ryan Lyons and Donnelly scored excellent long-range points with the wind to put them 0-5 to 0-2 ahead. Armagh were bossing the kick-outs and dominating possession but the forwards hit nine first-half wides.
They went 20 minutes without scoring and for their forwards, who didn't turn up against Down, now was the time to deliver.
They got to grips with the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, pushing up on Fermanagh's kick-outs with the visitors struggling to get beyond their '45'.
Quick hands from the eye-catching Jamie Clarke opened up the space for Andrew Murnin to pop over his second and then Clarke scored the point of the game, out-witting two defenders before cutting inside on his left foot to stroke over a fine score.
Grugan got them going again late in the half with three more frees with Ciaran O'Hanlon also scoring to put Armagh 0-8 to 0-6 ahead.
Fermanagh only scored two from play in the first-half but Corrigan was lethal from dead balls and landed his fourth of the half to close the deficit to 0-8 to 0-6 at half-time.
Armagh punished Fermanagh's indiscipline in the third quarter with Niall Grimley and Grugan nailing frees to take the game away from them.
Fermanagh lost Donnelly to as second yellow card after 59 minutes, four minutes after his first booking. The outcome was now inevitable, but Fermanagh battled on.
Armagh were more composed and Clarke was superb, kicking two points and setting up numerous others to book their place in Round 2B of the qualifiers.
Scorers - Armagh: N Grimley 0-6 (4f, one '45'), R Grugan 0-5 (5f), J Clarke 0-3, A Murnin 0-2, S Campbell 0-2, C O'Hanlon 0-1, E Rafferty 0-1. Fermanagh: T Corrigan 0-6 (6f), R Lyons 0-2, S Quigley 0-2, E Donnelly 0-1.
Armagh - B Hughes 7; M Shields 7, C Vernon 8, A McKay 6; A Forker 7, B Donaghy 7, P Hughes 7; S Sheridan 7, N Grimley 9; C O'Hanlon 7, A Duffy 7, R Grugan 8; J Clarke 9, A Murnin 8, G McParland 6. Subs: S Campbell 7 for Murnin (40), C McKeever 6 for O'Hanlon (46), E Rafferty 6 for McParland (68), O O'Neill NR for Grugan (70)
Fermanagh - C Snow 7; M Jones 7, C Cullen 8, C McManus 7; A Breen 9, R McCluskey 7, C Murphy 6; E Donnelly 7, L Cullen 7; D McCusker 7, R Lyons 8 , Paul McCusker 7; R Hyde 6, B Mulrone 6, T Corrigan 8. Subs: R Corrigan 6 for Hyde (23), Sean Quigley 7 for R Corrigan (46), D Teague 6 for Murphy (60), K Connor NR for McManus (69).
Ref - Cormac Reilly (Meath).