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Fermanagh produce shock of the year

Martin McGrath of Fermanagh celebrates at the end of the game
Saturday, August 07 2004 6:28

Fermanagh produced the upset of the year when they sensationally defeated overwhelming pre-match favourites Armagh by a single point, 0-12 to 0-11, in the first of today's Bank of Ireland All-Ireland Senior Football Championship quarter-finals at Croke Park.

Even before Enda McNulty's first half dismissal, Charlie Mulgrew's men were the better footballing side and, despite ending many of their free-flowing passing movements with some terrible wides near the end, they fearlessly kept searching for the winning score with the game tantalisingly locked at 0-11 apiece.

Substitute Tom Brewster, one of the few surviving members from Fermanagh teams of old, scored the winning point in injury time as the Erne men reached their first ever senior semi-final.

The 2002 All-Ireland champions started without Oisin McConville, who wasn't risked from the outset due to a hamstring injury. However, Armagh didn't appear to missing the Crossmaglen sharp-shooter when they led 0-5 to 0-1 after ten minutes.

Stephen McDonnell terrorised the Fermanagh defence early on with four points in that period, one from a free and three from play. Diarmuid Marsden had opened the scoring for Armagh in the second minute.

Colm Bradley settled the Ernesiders' nerves when he scored their first point in the tenth minute to make it 0-4 to 0-1. After McDonnell had made it 0-5 to 0-1, snubbing an opportunity to shoot for goal on this occasion, Fermanagh began to gel as a unit, tightening up their defending and generating varied, slick passing movements from the half back line.

Persistent Fermanagh pressure paid off as centre half-forward Stephen Maguire notched successive scores in the 12th (free), 16th and 17th (free) minutes to bring his side deservedly within a point of Armagh.

McDonnell registered his fifth score to make it 0-6 to 0-4 before James Sherry replied to restore the margin to one.

Bradley converted a superb '45' to level the match in the 23rd minute as Mulgrew introduced Brewster for Ciaran O'Reilly, offering Fermanagh yet more attacking options.

A long range free and a glorious point from play from Maguire put Fermanagh in the lead for the first time in the match in the 28th minute as a worried Joe Kernan introduced Brian Mallon for the struggling John Toal.

Marsden was desperately unlucky when his palmed effort came off the crossbar and Armagh's woes worsened just before the break when McNulty was rightly sent off for a cynical late elbow on Martin McGrath.

A Paddy McKeever free and a McDonnell point from play levelled matters again, 0-8 to 0-8, four minutes after the restart.
And it looked like an Armagh revival was truly in full swing when captain Kieran McGeeney struck a delightful point from way out on the left wing to put the Orchard men in the lead. But an equally glorious point from the boot of Eamon Maguire restored parity in the 49th minute.

McDonnell was lucky to escape with just a yellow card when he blatantly punched Ronan McCluskey in midfield. McConville replaced Paddy McKeever in the 56th minute as wayward Fermanagh shooting - James Sherry, Shane McDermott and Brewster the main offenders - became more prominent.

McConville put Armagh into a 0-11 to 0-10 lead on the hour as Brewster grabbed an equalisier from an acute angle with seven minutes remaining.

Mallon almost ended a fine hand pass move with an injury time winner but Brewster was the more composed, tapping over with thirty seconds remaining.

Afterwards, Mulgrew said of his young side: "Youth is a great thing. Two points up at half time I just said have a go and whatever we do, play it right to the end.

"We should have had the game won by injury time. At that stage I was saying are we going to give it away? But we did it and got our rewards."

Filed by James Boylan

Tyrone and Armagh fancied to go through, Aug 05 2004
Fermanagh through after extra time, Jul 24 2004
Brilliant Fermanagh blitz Cork in second half, Jul 17 2004
Meath crash out as Fermanagh progress, Jul 03 2004
Youthful Fermanagh facing Tyrone, Jun 03 2004
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