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McGrath: It's in our own hands to extend the season

 

By Declan Bogue

Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath is steadfast in his belief that no matter how Armagh are hurting, the Erne county have it in their own power to achieve a rare Championship victory over the Orchard county on Sunday evening.

Probably the finest moment in Fermanagh football history was the 2004 All-Ireland quarter-final win over Armagh, but they have paid for it in the meantime.

In 2005, Armagh dumped them out of the preliminary round and kept them at arm's length in the 2010 qualifier at Brewster Park.

The two have had numerous league meetings in recent times, with Armagh winning two meetings in 2015, during the regulation game at the Athletic Grounds, and that years' Division Three league final in Croke Park.

Armagh are strong favourites at present with the feeling being that a backlash is due after their non-performance against Down in the Ulster Championship.

"Whatever is in their heads, I can do nothing about that," states McGrath.

"I think any team that loses a Championship match and realises as a group that they haven't done themselves justice, then there is going to be some kind of a reaction. And I like to think we will have the same sort of reaction.

"Armagh's defeat is a bit more recent than ours and their wounds are still a bit more raw for them than they are for us. I think both sets of players and both groups realise that 'look, this is a knock out game, the whole season is resting on it. If you win this game on Sunday, then possibilities open up, there is no doubt about that."

The two-time All-Ireland winner added: "So there is a lot at stake for both teams and whatever Armagh are feeling, that's their business. They will probably feel that they were widely tipped to beat Down and they didn't. We weren't widely tipped to beat Monaghan so you could say our result went according to form."

There is an added bit of spice when you consider the relationship between McGrath and his rival manager, Kieran McGeeney, who continues his suspension from the sideline here.

It was McGrath that left McGeeney off the travelling Irish International Rules party to Australia in 2005. When Sean Boylan took over as manager the following year, he brought McGeeney back in from the cold and made him captain.

Things were also not helped last year during a league match in 2015 played in the Athletic Grounds, with resentment lingering after a member of the Fermanagh backroom staff was struck in a tunnel row as the teams left the field at half-time.

Fermanagh have been hit with several injuries this season and their luck is getting no better. Tempo's Daryl Keenan may require an MRI scan to get to the bottom of a puzzling foot injury and has not trained since the preliminary round defeat to Monaghan. He is joined on the injury list by Ryan Jones.

McGrath is able to call on Ruairi Corrigan, however.

"Ruairi will give us something on Sunday, whether we decide to start him, or if we decide to hold him and maybe introduce him at an opportune moment, we will have to talk about that. But he will play some part on Sunday," McGrath said.

Paddy Reihill is out (hamstring), while Declan McCusker has only made a tentative return. As any manager will note, injuries don't just weaken your hand when it comes to picking a team, but severely depletes the quality and competition of training sessions.

"I think that if the team plays somewhere close to our full potential we are every bit as good as Armagh and have every chance of winning the match as they have," adds McGrath.

The game is being played at 6.30pm on Sunday evening, which is an unusual time but takes into account the national Feile competition, which is being hosted this year in counties Fermanagh, Cavan and Monaghan.

In 2015, Fermanagh went on a glorious run through the qualifiers, and McGrath challenges this panel to repeat the trick, revealing: "I said to them that the challenge now is to ensure that when we play in the qualifiers in five week's time that we can play for 70 minutes, the way we played for the first 35 or 45 minutes of the Monaghan game, which I thought was more than good."

  • Armagh v Fermanagh, All-Ireland Qualifiers Round 1a: Athletic Grounds, Sunday, 6.30pm

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