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Armagh's patience pays off as players progress to push towards Division One

 

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Clinical edge: Armagh’s Aidan Forker celebrates scoring against Fermanagh

Clinical edge: Armagh’s Aidan Forker celebrates scoring against Fermanagh

Clinical edge: Armagh’s Aidan Forker celebrates scoring against Fermanagh

Just under a year ago, the roles were reversed for Armagh.

Back then they hosted Fermanagh in round six of the National League Division Two and were fighting for survival. Meanwhile, Fermanagh had the chance of promotion to the top flight having won their previous two games, including an eye-catching victory over Donegal, and drawing the opening two against Cork and Tipperary.

On the day, Armagh put double scores on Fermanagh, 1-9 to 0-6, and that was enough to keep them up.

Afterwards, assistant manager Jim McCorry made the point: "We are very pleased to come away with two points and be safe for next year, which is the best place for us next year.

"It is a very young squad, they have worked very hard this year and should have a couple more points than we do have, but that is a learning for us next year."

Reminded of that statement last Saturday night after handing out a 16-point hammering of Fermanagh, McCorry could put it all in context.

"Last year, there were a lot of young players coming through, you could see over the last 12 months," said the Lurgan native.

"Those players have all listened and worked hard. They have listened to what we told them in terms of the fitness end of it, the work that Dennis (Hollywood, trainer) and Julie (Davis, strength coach) does with them.

"They are listening to what we are telling them in terms of coaching on the football field and they are great to work with, they have a great appetite for coaching and they are applying that. There are times when it won't go well and they will be annoyed and we will correct that.

"In fairness to them, they are at a point now where they have improved quite a bit and we have new players in."

McCorry and manager Kieran McGeeney's patience appears to have paid off. This Saturday they face Roscommon at home in the Athletic Grounds. Both teams are on top of the table with seven points each, and a win should be enough to give them top flight status for the first time since they dropped out of it in 2012.

"It's still a building process but last year that's probably where we saw ourselves at. This year, nobody wants to be in the Tier Two, that was an initial target for a lot of teams in Division Two," McCorry said.

"But the main thing is that for all teams, they aspire to be in Division One. Roscommon are going to stand in our way, it's going to be a table-topper again. The last time we had a table-topper it was against Westmeath and both of us were on four points at that stage. This is a lot more meatier in terms of two teams on seven points and whoever wins that one will probably go up."

He added: "Division One is something in the future and I like to think about the present.

"And next week, and we don't want to look much further than that. There's no sense in talking about Division One and what we could or couldn't do in it when we still have Roscommon to beat next week.

"There was no promotion given tonight, it was an extra two points and that just sets us up for a really good game next Saturday night in the Athletic Grounds, and that's all we can focus on at the minute."

As deep as their panel has revealed itself to be, they were able to welcome back Jamie Clarke for his first start of the year.

He had been busy establishing his own fashion line - Ilk Clothing - but three minutes into this game he scored his 21st goal in the orange shades of an Armagh jersey.

"Jamie is a class player. He was setting up his new business this year and he had commitments with that," said McCorry.

"He'd injuries at the start of the year and missed a lot of pre-season, so it was a phased basis for him coming back.

"It was like trying to hold a racehorse back, and even in those conditions you saw his class."

Belfast Telegraph