All-Ireland SFC Qualifier: Armagh come good against Fermanagh
All-Ireland SFC Round 1B Qualifier
ARMAGH 0-20 FERMANAGH 0-11
By Orla Bannon at the Athletic Grounds
Armagh won just their second championship match of Kieran McGeeney's three-year reign with a comfortable All-Ireland SFC first round qualifier win over Fermanagh at the Athletic Grounds.
The visitors battled bravely but Armagh had more quality and outscored their opponents by six points to one in the third quarter to completely take the game away from Fermanagh.
Pete McGrath had won four of the six qualifiers he's played with Fermanagh in the previous three years but their fate was sealed when captain Eoin Donnelly was sent-off for a second yellow card 11 minutes from the end.
After such a poor performance against Down three weeks ago, the pressure was on Armagh to muster a positive response.
They began brightly with points in the opening four minutes from Andrew Murnin – one of the few Armagh forwards to leave Newry last time out with his reputation intact – and a Rory Grugan free.
Fermanagh are nothing if not well organised, however, and they left Tomas Corrigan and Barry Mulrone in a novel full-forward pairing with off-form Sean Quigley dropped.
Every other Fermanagh player had a job to do and they hustled Armagh and forced turnovers and capitalised with five unanswered points in the next 20 minutes.
Corrigan nailed three frees while Ryan Lyons and Eoin Donnelly scored excellent long-range points with the wind to put them 0-5 to 0-2 ahead.
Armagh's forwards didn't turn up against Down and now was the time to deliver.
They pushed up on Fermanagh's kickouts and it paid off, the visitors struggling to get beyond their own '45' with so many Armagh players pushing forward.
Quick hands from the stylish Jamie Clarke opened up the space for Murnin to pop over his second and then Clarke scored the point of the game, out-witting two defenders before cutting inside on his favourite left foot to stroke over a memorable score.
Armagh were bossing the kickouts and dominating possession but the forwards weren't clinical enough, hitting nine first-half wides and they went 20 minutes without scoring.
Grugan got them going again late in the half with three more frees with Ciaran O'Hanlon also scoring to put Armagh 0-8 to 0-6 ahead.
Fermanagh only scored two from play in the first half but Corrigan was lethal from dead balls and landed his fourth of the half to close the deficit to 0-8 to 0-6 at half time.
Armagh punished Fermanagh's indiscipline in the third quarter with Niall Grimley and Grugan nailing frees to take the game away from the Erne county.
At the other end, Fermanagh missed three frees in a row and missed a good goal chance when Tomas Corrigan ghosted in at the back post but got caught in two minds and the chance was gone.
Straight away, Armagh punished that mistake with sub Stefan Campbell scoring to push Armagh five clear.
The game was drifting away from Fermanagh and they lost captain Eoin Donnelly to as second yellow card after 59 minutes, four minutes after his first booking.
The outcome was now inevitable, but Fermanagh to their credit battled on and carved out another goal chance which Daniel Teague failed to take advantage of.
Armagh were more composed going forward and with Fermanagh pushing up in the second half it left gaps at the back which the orchard men exploited.
Clarke was superb, kicking two points and setting up scores for others with Grimley deadly with frees to book their place in Round 2B of the qualifiers.
*Scorers for Armagh: *Rory Grugan 0-5 (5f), Niall Grimley 0-6 (4f, one '45'), Jamie Clarke 0-3, Andrew Murnin 0-2, Stefan Campbell 0-2, Ciaran O'Hanlon 0-1, Ethan Rafferty 0-1
Scorers for Fermanagh: Tomas Corrigan 0-6 (6f), Ryan Lyons 0-2, Sean Quigley 0-2, Eoin Donnelly 0-1
ARMAGH: *Blaine Hughes; Mark Shields, Charlie Vernon, Aaron McKay; Aidan Forker, Brendan Donaghy, Paul Hughes; Stephen Sheridan, Niall Grimley; Ciaran O'Hanlon, Anto Duffy, Rory Grugan; Jamie Clarke, Andrew Murnin, Gavin McParland. *Subs: Stefan Campbell for Murnin (40), Ciaran McKeever for O'Hanlon (46), Ethan Rafferty for McParland (68), Oisin O'Neill for Grugan (70)
FERMANAGH: Chris Snow; Michael Jones, Che Cullen, Cian McManus; Aidan Breen, Ryan McCluskey, Conor Murphy; Eoin Donnelly, Lee Cullen; Declan McCusker, Ryan Lyons, Paul McCusker; Ryan Hyde, Barry Mulrone, Tomas Corrigan. *Subs: *Ruairi Corrigan for Hyde (23), Sean Quigley for R Corrigan (46), D Teague for Murphy (60), Kane Connor for McManus (69)
*REFEREE: *Cormac Reilly (Meath)