Armagh hold off Fermanagh challenge

Fermanagh 0-7 Armagh 0-11, Enniskillen

Steven McDonnell missed a penalty but still kicked a match-winning haul of 0-6 as Armagh advanced to the third round of the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Fermanagh gave their Ulster rivals quite a test in Enniskillen, with free-taker Seamus Quigley kicking five points and Brian Cox and Tommy McElroy also on target.

But the Orchard men, who led 0-4 to 0-1 early on and by 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time, always seem to have enough in the tank. Jamie Clarke (0-2), Gareth Swift (0-1) and Charlie Vernon (0-2) completed the visitors’ scoring.

Fermanagh brought Devenish’s Martin O’Brien in at full-back and moved Ryan McCluskey to centre back in an attempt to tighten up a defence that leaked 21 points against Monaghan.

Team captain James Sherry had Ryan Jones for company in midfield, and Fermanagh manager Malachy O’Rourke added Brian Cox, Seamus Quigley and Ciaran Flaherty to the attack.

Armagh ventured to Brewster Park on the back of a comfortable 2-14 to 0-11 first round dismissal of Donegal, and their boss Paddy O’Rourke brought Joe Feeney in at wing forward, in place of Anto Duffy who dislocated his shoulder against Donegal.

Armagh signalled their intent as the in-form Jamie Clarke shot wide when presented with a glimpse of goal after just 16 seconds. Although Quigley converted a free for the opener, Clarke got his side level by jinking inside his marker to score in the sixth minute.

Two Steven McDonnell points and a single effort from Charlie Vernon had Armagh 0-4 to 0-1 ahead by the 26th minute, but Fermanagh had missed a gilt-edged goal-scoring chance during that spell.

Net minder Paul Hearty blocked a Ryan Carson shot, and Paul Ward opted to pass when an attempt on goal was the better option. Daryl Keenan could not get a foot to the pass and Armagh cleared the danger.

Quigley and McDonnell traded points before the Fermanagh marksman kicked two superb frees off the ground, from 48 and 52 metres respectively, to reduce the arrears for his determined side to 0-5 to 0-4.

McDonnell ended what had been an error-strewn half with a final point in injury-time, with both sides guilty of poor passing and some lacklustre shooting.

One of the busiest men on the pitch during the opening 35 minutes had been referee Derek Fahy who booked five players.

Armagh almost made a dream start to the second half when they won a penalty, awarded after Fermanagh full-back O’Brien hauled down Malachy Mackin as he was able to shoot. McDonnell stepped up to take it, but Fermanagh goalkeeper Ronan Gallagher pulled off a fantastic save as he diverted the ball around a post.

Tommy McElroy gave the Ernesiders real hope as he pointed to make it 0-6 to 0-5, but Armagh quelled any thoughts of an upset as Clarke and McDonnell extended the visitors’ lead back to three.

On two occasions, a Quigley-inspired Fermanagh managed to get it back to a two-point game, and even Marty McGrath, who had been troubled by injury, made an appearance off the bench.

But there was no denying that Armagh were the better side and Vernon, McDonnell and Swift, with a lovely curling effort, wrapped up the win – albeit with Clarke being denied a late goal by another excellent save from Gallagher.

Speaking afterwards, Armagh manager Paddy O’Rourke was pleased that his charges had created a good number of chances but realistic enough to know that they will have to be more clinical the next day. ‘Winning ugly’ was enough to satisfy the Burren man who said that games at this stage of the Championship are ‘rarely classics.’

For Malachy O’Rourke, the result brought to an end his third year in charge of the Fermanagh panel.

O’Rourke was ‘delighted with how the players did themselves justice’ with regards to work rate, intensity and will to win, especially after the poor showing against Monaghan. But he was non-committal over his future in the Erne hot seat.

Scorers:

Fermanagh: S Quigley 0-5 (0-4f), B Cox, T McElroy 0-1 each

Armagh: S McDonnell 0-6 (0-3f), J Clarke, C Vernon 0-2 each, G Swift 0-1

FERMANAGH: Ronan Gallagher; N Bogue, M O'Brien, B Mulrone; D Ward, R McCluskey, T McElroy; J Sherry (capt), R Jones; D Keenan, R Carson, B Cox; P Ward, S Quigley, C Flaherty.

Subs used: McGovern for Mulrone, M McGrath for Jones, O'Brien for Ward, Rory Gallagher for Flaherty.

ARMAGH: P Hearty; A Mallon, B Donaghy, V Martin; P Duffy, C McKeever, K Dyas; C Vernon, M Mackin; J Feeney, A Kernan, F Hanratty; G Swift, S McDonnell (capt), J Clarke.

Subs used: F Moriarty for Dyas, B Mallon for Feeney, K Toner for Swift.

Referee: Derek Fahy (Longford)

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