Sunday 18 November 2018

Gallagher's band of brothers add to Armagh's Ulster woes

Ulster SFC: Fermanagh 0-12 Armagh 0-7

Seamus Quigley of Fermanagh. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Seamus Quigley of Fermanagh. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Seán McGoldrick

Fermanagh's 'Band of Brothers' - four sets in total - inflicted more misery on Armagh in Enniskillen's Brewster Park, where, at the third attempt this year, they finally got over the line against the Orchard County.

They drew in the league in March and, though Armagh beat them later in the Division 3 final, this was the one that mattered as Fermanagh qualified for their first provincial semi-final since 2010.

"There is one line that was sticking out at the start of the year - they hadn't beaten a team that was ranked above them as such," said boss Rory Gallagher. "They feel they have not been successful enough in the championship. We said one thing at the start of the year: we need to beat Armagh in the Ulster Championship and whatever happens after that, we move on."

Woeful

Armagh were woeful. The dismissal on a straight red card of Niall Grimley - just one of seven survivors from the side that reached last year's All-Ireland quarter-finals - in the 37th minute didn't help their cause, nor did the fitness issues surrounding two of their experienced forwards, Ethan Rafferty and team captain Rory Grugan, who didn't start.

Nonetheless, scoring two points from play, kicking 15 wides and failing to create a single goal chance are abysmal statistics by any standards as manager Kieran McGeeney - who has yet to guide his side to an Ulster Championship win in four campaigns - acknowledged.

Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

"We thought we were ready for it and well prepared but it was just a different team that turned up. It looked as if we were rudderless up front - we missed frees, we missed easy shots in front of goal. It was just a bad at the office. It's my job to get them ready and if they're not ready the buck stops with me," he admitted.

Punctuated by one red, one black, eight yellow cards and 45 frees, the contest was a disjointed affair of packed defences but the most influential players all wore green.

The chequered inter-county career of 29-year old Seamus Quigley is illustrated by the fact that this was the first championship game he started. And, while he missed a goal chance after three minutes when Armagh goalkeeper Blaine Hughes saved his close-range effort, he kept his composure to convert four frees and hit two points from play.

Fermanagh broke at pace from the back and though they initially attacked down the flanks, they cleverly switched the play into the centre where runners, Barry Mulrone and in particular Damien McCusker, founds gaps in the Armagh defence.

Declan McCusker of Fermanagh in action against Brendan Donaghy, left, and Ben Crealey of Armagh. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Declan McCusker of Fermanagh in action against Brendan Donaghy, left, and Ben Crealey of Armagh. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Difficulty

Apart from a spell in the second quarter when they had difficulty securing the long kick-outs from goalkeeper Patrick Cadden, Eoin Donnelly and Ryan Jones dominated at midfield - with the latter getting forward to score two precious points from play.

Though playing against the breeze Fermanagh were fastest out of the blocks and led 0-4 to 0-1 after 11 minutes. Armagh had what transpired to be their only productive scoring spell during the remainder of the half, outscoring Fermanagh 3-2. But they also kicked seven wides - two more than the home side, who led 0-6 to 0-4 at the break.

Seamus Quigley nailed the free after Grimley was dismissed for a high challenge on his brother Sean to extent Fermanagh's advantage to three and by the 47th minute they had doubled their lead.

Territorially, Armagh dominated the final quarter and the introduction of Grugan eased their free-kicking woes but they squandered five points chances on the spin from play which put paid to any hope of a comeback.

But Rory Gallagher knows that bigger challenges lie ahead. Asked whether he was glad he returned to manage his native county, he replied: "Glad today anyway. There were days coming up the road I wasn't so sure."

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) 0-1 each.

Fermanagh - P Cadden 7; C Cullen 7, M Jones 8, C Connor 7; B Mulrone 8, D McCusker 8, L Cullen 7; E Donnelly 7, R Jones 8; P McCusker 7, J McMahon 7, A Breen 6; Sean Quigley 7, Seamus Quigley 8, C Jones 6. Subs: C Corrigan 6 for Sean Quigley (56), D Teague 6 for P McCusker (62), E Maguire 5 for Breen (66), C McManus for Connor (72); T Clarke for Jones (75).

Armagh - B Hughes 7; P Burns 7, A McKay 6, B Donaghy 7; C Mackin 5, G McCabe 6, M Shields 7; C Vernon 6, B Crealey 4; R McShane 6, A Forker 6, N Grimley 4; G McPartland 6, A Murnin 5, E Rafferty 6. Subs: N Rowland 5 for Crealey (31), J McElroy 5 for Mackin (45); R Grugan 6 for McPartland, J Hall 6 for McShane (50); E McGeown 5 for Raftery (61); A Findon for Grugan (BC, 73).

Ref - P Neilan (Roscommon)

Irish Independent

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