Armagh gain revenge on Fermanagh

Armagh 2-12 Fermanagh 1-7

Armagh 2-12 Fermanagh 1-7

Armagh made spectacular amends for last summer's sensational Croke Park defeat by Fermanagh.

They steamrolled the Erne men at Clones, squeezing them into submission long before the finish, to set up an Ulster Football Championship quarter-final clash with Donegal.

Joe Kernan's rampant side won by eight points, but it could have been 28.

A remarkable return of 22 wides illustrated their dominance as much as their wastefulness.

Remarkably, the chief culprit was Stephen McDonnell, who squandered a hatful of chances. After bagging a glorious 10 points tally in the National League final two weeks ago, he managed just a single point, and that from a free.

Fermanagh were just a point behind at the halfway stage, but they never looked like they could repeat last August's All-Ireland quarter-final raid.

With Paul McGrane an imperious figure in midfield and John McEntee and Martin O'Rourke drifting in and out of the central region to garner copious amounts of possession, Armagh were dominant almost throughout the first half.

But a heroic Erne full back line in which full-back Barry Owens was superb, allowed their opponents virtually no room for manoeuvre.

A huge tally of 10 first half wides, half of those kicked by Steven McDonnell, frustrated and tormented the Orchard fans among the big 24,147 St Tiernach's Park crowd.

The kick-start they needed came from an unlikely source, O'Rourke thumping over two superb long range points to ease the National League champions into a 0-6 to 0-2 lead.

Fermanagh offered little in the way of penetration. The Little brothers, Mark and Aidan, looked lively on the flanks, but finishing power was virtually non-existent.

Oisin McConville's industry helped Ronan Clarke finally escape the shackles of the excellent Owens to shoot his first point for a four points advantage on 33 minutes, but the introduction of Rory Gallagher was to detonate an explosive charge.

Within two minutes of entering the action, Gallagher took a Mark Little pass to slide the ball past Paul Hearty for a sensational stoppage time goal, and suddenly just a point separated the sides.

Charlie Mulgrew could barely believe that his side, having had barely 20% of possession, was so close at the break, trailing by 1-3 to 0-7.

But Armagh began to put daylight between the sides after the restart.

With two minutes, they had pulled back a goal, Clarke soaring high to punch home McConville's right wing cross.

McEntee was an immense figure in midfield, fetching, giving and cajoling, and Brian Mallon made his own special contribution, hitting two quick-fire points and rounding off a move involving McDonnell and McConville for a 57th minute goal.

Now it was double scores, 2-10 to 1-5, and Fermanagh, barely able to get out of their own half, were finished.

McEntee thumped over a towering point, Mallon brought his tally to 1-3, and while they continued to fire blanks at an alarming rate, Armagh looked quite awesome at times, with Aaron Kernan, Andy Mallon and skipper Kieran McGeeney keeping it tight at the back.

Armagh: P Hearty, A Mallon, F Bellew, K McElvanna, A Kernan, K McGeeney, C McKeever, J Toal, P McGrane, M O'Rourke (0-2), J McEntee (0-1), O McConville (0-4, 2 frees), S McDonnell (0-1, 1 free), R Clarke (1-1), B Mallon (1-3).

Subs: P Loughran for Toal, A McCann for McElvanna, A O'Rourke for McKeever, M Mackin for McDonnell, P Duffy for A Mallon.

Fermanagh: N Tinney; S Goan, B Owens, R McCluskey; R Johnston, S McDermott, D Reilly; L McBarron (0-1), J Sherry (0-1), E Maguire, T Brewster, M Little (0-4, 3 frees), A Little, S Maguire, C Bradley.

Subs: N Bogue for Reilly, Rory Gallagher (1-1, 1 '45') for Brewster, M McGrath for S Maguire, R Keenan for Bradley, J McGurn for McBarron

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)

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