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Kieran McGeeney's battling Armagh grow in stature

Armagh 1-10 - Fermanagh 0-12

By Declan Bogue

Published 29/02/2016

Ugly scenes: Armagh and Fermanagh players clash in the ill-disciplined encounter at the Athletic Grounds, the Orchard County edging victory by a point
Ugly scenes: Armagh and Fermanagh players clash in the ill-disciplined encounter at the Athletic Grounds, the Orchard County edging victory by a point

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney made it sound like he was still slightly nonplussed after watching Stefan Campbell's spectacular winner in the Athletic Grounds to gain the Orchard County's first points of the league campaign, but he did highlight his side's greater ability to manage the pressure in a hectic final few plays.

After the game, which was delayed for a minute's silence for John Grugan, father of Armagh player Rory who died while on holiday in France, McGeeney said: "If you were asking me would I be happy in our performance, the answer is no. The first 20 minutes I would, but we fell asunder after that.

"We probably played better against Laois, but didn't show the same character or ball control coming into the last five minutes. And game management that we showed today, which was a big bonus," added 'Geezer'.

The backdrop to that was that Fermanagh had levelled the game deep into injury-time, when a laser-guided Tomas Corrigan free floated over the crossbar. His team mates somehow switched off as Charlie Vernon and Shea Heffron worked the ball upfield to Campbell. A few weeks ago he told reporters how he wanted to be the new Jamie Clarke and assume the responsibility, but Clarke has seldom pulled a game out of the fire as 'Soupy's' 40-yard clincher did.

McGeeney explained: "The manner in which they did, deep into injury time, momentum was against them… I am proud of the boys, Charlie, Shea broke the gain line, got the ball right up into the scoring area and they got it to a key player and he took a hell of a score."

Armagh face Cavan away now in the next match, seeking to make it four points and another step towards consolidating their position in Division Two.

When asked if this was a crucial win in the overall context of the season, McGeeney added: "It depends on what we do next week. It's an important game, we have two points on the board, it is an Ulster derby as well, there is a lot of bragging rights out of it."

His opposite number Pete McGrath is not given to complaining about referees, but he broke that habit for Cormac Reilly's unique interpretation of the rules in this game.

In the first minute he blew a close-in free against Mickey Jones for lifting off the ground when he clearly lifted correctly. From then on his decisions deteriorated, culminating in one 60-second cameo when Aidan Forker - already yellow-carded - escaped with two consecutive black card offences under Reilly's nose.

"If anyone has the final tally of the foul count, it might show a preponderance of fouls committed by Armagh, rather than us," the Erne boss pondered.

"The referee at times was very lenient, and maybe linesmen who should be seeing these things weren't very vigilant either. It's a pity when the play is broken up like that and fouling actually pays off."

As is his way, he chose to voice what pleased him about the game when it came to assessing his side, who while slow to get off the mark could realistically feel they were the better side for significant periods.

"You are looking for players to show heart and courage and endeavour, and at times imagination and very good football.

"Once we got into our stride and got some kind of a foothold into the game, I thought we had a lot of positives to take from that game tonight."

ARMAGH: M McNeice; S Heffron, C Vernon, A Mallon; S Forker, A Forker, M Shields; A Findon, N Grimley (0-1); S Campbell (1-5, 3f), M McKenna (0-3), S Connell; C Watters (0-1), C O'Hanlon, A Murnin. Subs: G McParland for Murnin (20), T Kernan for O'Hanlon (21), N McConville for Kernan (BC, 35), J Morgan for Watters (BC, 44), J McElroy for Grimley (55), J Feeney for McConville (63)

Yellow cards: A Forker (36m), Campbell (40m), Morgan (66m)

FERMANAGH: C Snow; M Jones, C Cullen, N Cassidy; P Rehill (0-1), J McMahon, A Breen (0-2); E Donnelly, D Kelly; B Mulrone, R Jones, K Connor; R Corrigan (0-1), S Quigley (0-3, 3f), T Corrigan (0-5, 3f). Subs: R O'Callaghan for Kelly (55), P McGovern for Rehill (58), D Teague for Connor (63), E McManus for R Corrigan (68)

Yellow cards: McMahon (36m), T Corrigan (66m), Mulrone (69m)

Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)

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