By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Armagh 0-16 Fermanagh 0-11
Armagh continued the impression that they are moving in the right direction under Kieran McGeeney’s stewardship, overcoming a slow start and the first-half sending off of centre-back, Finnian Moriarty to bag the Allianz Football League Division 3 crown.
Fermanagh will wonder what might have been had they backed up their impressive opening with more clinical finishing as they racked up the wides but Armagh wasted at least three glorious goal chances and were deserving victors.
Of course even without McGeeney being in charge, the expectation was that Armagh’s stay in the third tier would be brief and that they would win this game, given how they recovered from relegation last year to make a bold show in the championship.
McGeeney was a selector with his long-time friend, Paul Grimley on that occasion and his influence is greater now.
The winners had stars all over the field, with Charlie Vernon magnificent at full-back, Andy Murnin a constant threat at full-forward and Jamie Clarke hugely influential close to goal and when dropping deep.
It was Fermanagh who settled best early on, racing into a three-point lead inside seven minutes thanks to points Tomás Corrigan and two excellent dead balls from Seán Quigley.
Tony Kernan opened the scoring from a free for a foul on Murnin and the full-forward was dragged down on four or five occasions by Tiernan Daly, who somehow escaped a yellow card.
That will have undoubtedly been noted by McGeeney, particularly when Moriarty received his second yellow after 25 minutes.
By that stage, Armagh had settled into proceedings and their workrate had increased immeasurably.
Stefan Forker made it 0-4 each when blasting over from close range after receiving a kick-pass of astounding vision and execution by Micheál McKenna.
With Kernan and Ethan Rafferty doing the business from placed balls as Fermanagh’s indiscipline was proving costly, Armagh went in at half time leading by 0-8 to 0-6.
It would have been worse but for a stunning save from Thomas Treacy to deny Kevin Dyas just before the interval. There was still time for the 45 and Treacy made another good reflex stop from Murnin that was almost as good.
Skipper Ciaran McKeever on at half time for Armagh and they looked comfortable as Kernan and Rafferty continued to be clinical from frees.
Treacy made a double save from Murnin after good work by Clarke and Vernon and Fermanagh reduced the margin to three with points from the excellent Corrigan and Ciaran O’Hanlon kicked vital point for Armagh in the 59th minute and substitute Stephen Harold added a late brace to make it a relaxed conclusion for the Orchard County.
Armagh: T Kernan 0-6(5fs); E Rafferty 0-3(fs); J Clarke, S Harold 0-2 each; S Forker, C O’Hanlon, K Dyas 0-1 each
Fermanagh: S Quigley 0-7(6fs, 1 45); T Corrigan 0-3; R Corrigan 0-1
Armagh: N Geoghan, A Mallon, C Vernon, M Murray, J Morgan, F Moriarty, M Shields, A Forker, E Rafferty, T Kernan, M McKenna, K Dyas, C O’Hanlon, A Murnin, J Clarke. Subs: C McKeever for McKenna (ht), E McVerry for Forker (47), S Harold for Murnin (59), G McParland for Rafferty (63)
Fermanagh: T Treacy, M Jones, T Daly, M O’Brien, B Mulrone, R McCluskey, N Cassidy, R Jones, R O’Callaghan, P McCusker, R Corrigan, D McCusker, T Corrigan, S Quigley, C Flaherty. Subs: D Keely for Daly (ht), A Breen for P McCusker (54), C Jones for R Corrigan (56), D McQuade for Flaherty (61)
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary)