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Armagh's Ulster drought continues as Fermanagh upset McGeeney's men in low-scoring quarter-final

Fermanagh 0-12 Armagh 0-7

19 May 2018; James McMahon of Fermanagh in action against Aidan Forker of Armagh during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final match between Fermanagh and Armagh at Brewster Park in Enniskillen, Fermanagh. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
19 May 2018; James McMahon of Fermanagh in action against Aidan Forker of Armagh during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final match between Fermanagh and Armagh at Brewster Park in Enniskillen, Fermanagh. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Fermanagh are in seventh heaven after winning their first Ulster championship match since 2016. They brushed aside the woefully weak challenge of Division 3 league champions Armagh tonight.

Rory Gallagher's side now advance to provincial semi-final against the winners of tomorrow's all-Division One encounter between Tyrone and Monaghan.

This victory in front of 8,421 fans in Enniskillen's Brewster Park might appear a surprise. However, there was been literally a kick of the ball between the teams in 2018.

They finished level when they clashed in the league and though Armagh won the re-match in the Division 3 final – when it counted it was Fermanagh, who were beaten by Armagh in last year's All-Ireland qualifiers, who won as convincingly as their five-point winning margin suggests.

Twenty-nine-year-old Seamus Quigley – who was starting his first full championship match - was the Fermanagh hero, kicking six points. Armagh's cause wasn't helped by the dismissal early in the second half of Niall Grimley and the fact that they kicked 15 wides – eight more than the home side.

While not as significant as their shock 2004 All-Ireland quarter final victory over Armagh – which was also their last championship win over the Orchard County - this was a noteworthy breakthrough for one of the country's perennial Cinderella teams. It also condemned Armagh to their fourth consequence first round exit in the Ulster series.

Amazingly Kieran McGeeney has yet to guide his native county to a win in the Ulster series but last year Armagh managed to turn around their year in the All-Ireland qualifiers to end up in the quarter-finals. On the basis of this woeful performance, they have a lot of work to do to match that achievement.

Armagh had the advantage of the breeze but it was the home side who were fastest out of the blocks as they raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 advantage after just 11 minutes. Indeed, Armagh were fortunate not to be further behind. Only a brilliant instinctive safe from Armagh keeper Blaine Hughes denied Seamus Quigley a goal in the fourth minute after a shot from his brother struck the upright.

The visitors improved as the half progressed and a brace of points from Ethan Rafferty – the first from a free – in the 13th and 17th minutes respectively left a point between the sides. Fermanagh's tactic of going long with their restarts in the second quarter yielded mixed results with Armagh snaffling four of them but they didn't really capitalise on that hard possession.

Predictably both sides pulled bodies behind the ball but Fermanagh kept their full forward line within striking distance of the Armagh goals at all times.

Fermanagh were able to get their runners free once they switched the play with Declan McCusker and Barry Mulrone playing crucial roles – though the latter kicked a poor wide. The finishing of both sides – particularly from long range frees – left a lot to be desired with Armagh kicking seven wides – two more than Fermanagh in the first half.

Armagh's on-field runner Paddy McKeever was dispatched to the stands by referee Paddy Neilan and Fermanagh finished the half on the more positive note with points from Ryan Jones – his second from play – and a pointed free from Seamus Quigley after Niall Grimley needlessly pushed him over.

So Fermanagh led 0-6 to 0-4 at the break - with Armagh only managing to score two points from play in the half.

Their troubles increased less than three minutes into the second half when Niall Grimley was red-carded for a neck high tackle on Sean Quigley. His brother Seamus nailed the resultant free and Sean added another point in the 43rd minute to extend their advantage to four points.

By the 47th minute Fermanagh were six points clear (0-10; 0-4) and Armagh didn't open their second half account until substitute Rory Grugan kicked a 51st minute free. The game became very disjointed and another Grugan free after Fermanagh messed up a kick-out brought the margin back to four and the visitors were back in the contest.

Armagh kicked four bad wides in their next four attacks but they continued to dominate territorially as Fermanagh appeared mostly content to protect their precarious advantage. But Seamus Quigley finally eased the nerves of the Fermanagh supporters with a wonderful fisted point nine minutes from the end of normal time.

Ultimately the game petered out to its inevitable conclusion with the poverty of the Armagh effort reflected in the fact that they failed to score from play in the second half. As someone remarked in the crowd, Armagh should have gone to Lourdes rather than Portugal on their recent training camp.

 

Scorers: Fermanagh: Seamus Quigley 0-6 (4f), R Jones 0-2, D Mulrone, D McCusker, L Cullen, Sean Quigley 0-1 each.

Armagh: R Grugan 0-3 (3f), E Raftery 0-2 (1f), M Shields and G McPartland (f) each.

Fermanagh: P Cadden; C Cullen, M Jones, C Connor, B Mulrone (0-1), D McCusker (0-1), L Cullen (0-1); E Donnelly, R Jones (0-2); P McCusher, J McMahon, A Breen; Sean Quigley (0-1), Seamus Quigley (0-6, 4f), C Jones. Subs: C Corrigan for Sean Quigley 56m; D Teague for P McCusker 62m, E Maguire for Breen 66m; C McManus for Connor 72m; T Clarke for Jones 75m

Armagh: B Hughes; P Burns, A McKay, B Donaghy; C Mackin, G McCabe, M Shields (0-1); C Vernon, B Crealey; R McShane, A Forker, N Grimley; G McPartland (0-1, 1f), A Murnin, E Rafferty (0-2,1f). Subs: N Ronan for Crealey 31m; J McElroy for Mackin 45m; R Grugan (0-3, 3f) for McPartland 47m, J Hall for McShane 50m; E McGeown for Raftery 61st

Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)

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