Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Adrian Logan: Ulster final was the best show in town

A cracking Ulster final at Clones and the Fermanagh fairytale lives on for at least another week. The final score was Armagh2-8 Fermanagh 1-11 but the score line does little justice to what was a superb game of football between two brilliant sides.

Fermanagh in search of their first Ulster title went about it the hard way. At one stage they trailed by eight points before they began to play the football which we know they are capable. They ran at Armagh and exposed certain weaknesses in defence that have been there for some time.

Armagh are not the fastest in defence and the younger, stronger Fermanagh side did everything they could in the final twenty minutes to turn the game their way. It was in stark contrast to the first half when they hit aimless high balls into the heart of the Armagh side. Francie Bellew and co just lapped it up.

Even at the start of the second half they looked doomed when Ronan Clarke stole in for their second goal. On reflection the goal came too early for Armagh. It was as if some of them felt the game was over and some relaxed while Fermanagh threw caution to the wind.

Eventually Malachy O’Rourke did make a chance and Barry Owens did a great deal of good work when he was put in at the edge of the square. In fact he caused panic on several occasions and could have stolen a goal.

We shouldn't have been surprised by the Fermanagh comeback. They have been doing it all season in the league and in the championship so far they have shown they will not go down without a fight. The days of this team being patronised is over.

They may win their first Ulster title next week or not. Make no mistake it's only round the corner for this particular bunch of players.

Fermanagh are one of the new breed. They are one of the moving teams in Gaelic Football and one of the teams who deserve huge respect.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable second half at Clones. The first half was ordinary to say the least but the second made up for it all. So much so that Ulster secretary Danny Murphy told me after the game that it was the climax of the greatest Ulster championship so far. I don't know if it was the best but it is up with anything we have seen for several decades. And to think there is another chapter left next week.

And speaking of next week. The big question? Have Fermanagh blown their chance. I'm not so sure. They are the sharper looking side and the fitter and younger judging by yesterday. Armagh will take solace form the fact that they won't be expected to play as badly again in the last twenty minutes of a championship decider.

But Armagh have problems. Oisin McConville came on and didn't quite get to the pace of the game and if Stevie McDonnell can be curtailed then Armagh are in trouble. How many times has Stevie from Killeavey rescued his county. They should be erecting a statue to this fabulous footballer.

The key to any replay is down to the team who learns most from the drawn game. That's where the managers come into the frame. Both know the game inside out and both will be hoping to improve. For Armagh the crucial problem for they was the amount of turn over ball particularly in the last twenty minutes. If they can improve that then who knows.

But perhaps the volume of opinion now lies with Fermanagh. In the closing stages they showed how much an Ulster title means to them. They hit the last four points led by their inspirational Captain and Ulster footballer of the year Marty McGrath. And what a moment for Shaun Doherty.

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