Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Fermanagh manager O’Rourke hails comeback

Fermanagh’s thoughts may have commenced spinning apprehensively to 1982 at Clones yesterday when Armagh slipped into what appeared to be an unassailable 2-6 to 0-4 lead with the contest still in it's comparative infancy.

But when his side dug deep in an enthralling second half to eventually earn the right to fight another day, manager Malachy O'Rourke lost no time in eulogising their colossal effort.

"Any side conceding an eight point lead to a team like Armagh in an Ulster final has to be in grave danger. But we fought back superbly, we took the game to them by attacking the spaces and keeping them under pressure," enthused O'Rourke.

If a handful of relatively easy scoring chances were spurned, he was not prepared to dwell on what might be construed as minor shortcomings, given the fairy-tale comeback that had been launched.

"Our work-rate was outstanding and maybe in one sense we will be kicking ourselves that we did not win the game but if I had been offered a draw at half time, I would assuredly have taken it," smiled O'Rourke.

And he derided any suggestion that his side may now be in pole position for next Sunday's replay.

"Armagh will obviously feel that they have conceded too much and will be keen to make amends. They will be an even tougher proposition for us," observed O'Rourke.

His skipper Martin McGrath stressed that even though they were behind at half time, the team never lost their sense of purpose or feel for glory.

"We stuck at it, we knew we had made mistakes in the first half but we did not allow ourselves to become deflated.

"Obviously Armagh's two goals were big factors but on a different day, maybe we could get the goals — that remains to be seen," said McGrath.

His immense input into the game and Fermanagh's ability to virtually own the ball in terms of second rate possession, had been major catalysts in their stunning renaissance, and McGrath's emphasis on the team ethic clearly demonstrated a core value.

"There is a squad of 37 players here, and every one of them is keen to put their body on the line. The players who started and the players who came in as substitutes played magnificently but nothing has been won yet.

“We know that the replay starts from a level playing field all over again and it is now down to us to be up for what will be a huge challenge," added McGrath.

Armagh manager Peter McDonnell, like O'Rourke, in charge of a team for the first time in the provinces showpiece fixture, made it clear afterwards that "the battle has not been won or lost yet."

McDonnell went on to say: "We looked comfortable enough in the first half, but Fermanagh asked a lot of questions of us in the second half.

“Our mission will now be to come up with answers to those questions in time for next week's replay.

"Obviously we made things hard for ourselves and we have to take this on board."

McDonnell admitted that Armagh had a lot to do in advance of the replay but qualified this by saying: "Fermanagh will feel they have work to do as well, of course.

“I know O'Rourke well and he will be telling his team that the input they showed for the last 20 minutes will have to be replicated maybe for the entire duration of the replay. That will be a measure of the test facing us, if you like."

McDonnell, who watched his side engage in many uncharacteristic errors for the greater part of the second half, is acutely aware that Fermanagh will feel they have pinpointed a weakness in his sides mechanism.

"Fermanagh will take great heart from their second half recovery and will feel that the few chances they missed could maybe have given them a victory.

“But as things stand nothing has been decided. The title is still up for grabs and we intend to be very focused for the replay," stated McDonnell.

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