The hard work is only starting for Armagh, says Kieran McGeeney
Armagh 0-16 Fermanagh 0-11
There could hardly be a better time in the year to move into bonus territory than just on the cusp of the Ulster Championship.
Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney is savouring the warm feeling that this engenders, but not to the extent that his team's tigerish triumph in a brittle, combative Division Three final will be allowed to cloud reality.
Even a cursory sift through his team's performance against a gallant but less streetwise Erne outfit convinces McGeeney that much homework remains to be done before examinations are faced.
"We definitely had three if not four open goal chances which we did not take," said McGeeney. "In fairness the goalkeeper did well but I thought we were pretty poor in that we did not get something out of the chances.
"And I was disappointed in our point-taking, too. We had shots that went wide, others hit the post and yet more which dropped short into the keeper's arms so that's something we have to work on.."
Nonetheless Armagh's muscular experience, their ability to counter-attack down the flanks and the opportunism of Tony Kernan and Ethan Rafferty in particular who landed nine points between them underpinned a no-frills, high-energy offering that will have since been dissected by Tyrone and Donegal since one of these counties will form the opposition to McGeeney's men in the Ulster Championship quarter-finals.
It was when the match was delicately-balanced in the 25th minute that referee Derek O'Mahoney employed the ultimate sanction against Armagh defender Finian Moriarty thus leaving his side at a numerical disadvantage for the remainder of the game - and incurring the frustration of McGeeney.
"I thought it was a bit harsh. Our full-forward Andrew Murnin was fouled at least six times in the first-half and no action was taken," he said pointedly.
Tony Kernan land four frees to underpin Armagh's 0-8 to 0-6 interval lead.
But when Kernan with a further brace and Rafferty with a similar contribution eased the orchard county ahead at 0-12 to 0-8 by the 44th minute, Fermanagh temporarily wilted before Sean Quigley and the talented Corrigan brothers Tomas and Ruairi re-floated their boat.
However, substitute Steven Harold swung over two late points which were complemented by another from Kevin Dyas to take Armagh to success and leave Fermanagh boss Peter McGrath to pinpoint exactly why his steam fell short.
"The fact that we had to start without Eoin Donnelly, our captain and midfielder, was a massive blow to us," said McGrath.
"And there is no better team than Armagh at protecting a lead even when they are a man down.
"All good teams tend to live on the edge but on this occasion Armagh were the better side," he added.
Armagh: N Geoghegan; A Mallon, C Vernon, M Murray; J Morgan, F Moriarty, M Shields; C O'Hanlon (0-1), K Dyas (0-1); T Kernan (0-6, 5f), M McKenna, A Forker (0-1); E Rafferty (0-3f), A Murnin, J Clarke (0-2). Subs: C McKeever for M McKenna (half-time), E McVerry for A Forker (46), S Harold (0-2) for A Murnin (58), G McParland for E Rafferty (61), C Rafferty for C O'Hanlon (68).
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 (0-1), D McCusker; T Corrigan (0-3), S Quigley (0-7, 6f, 1'45), C Flaherty. Subs: D Kille for Daly (half-time), A Breen for P McCusker (53), C Jones for R Corrigan (55), D McQuade for Flaherty (60), S Cullen for O'Callaghan (70).
Referee: Derek O'Mahoney (Tipperary).