Armagh firepower should be too hot for Fermanagh

Ulster SFC Quarter-final
Fermanagh v Armagh
Sunday, Brewster Park, 2pm

By Shaun Casey

LAST year, two divisions separated Armagh and Fermanagh as Kieran McGeeney’s men battled with the best the country had to offer in Division One while the Erne County climbed to the top of the Division Three table.

Next year, that same gap will appear between the two counties once the 2025 season gets underway but when the pair clashed during their Division Two league campaign just six weeks ago, four points was all that separated them.

Neither had their fate secured at that stage, although the result that day helped place the two teams at two different ends of the league table, and while Armagh were clearly the better team, it just wasn’t as comfortable as they’d have liked.

That bit of extra punch up front told the tale in the end, with Stefan Campbell, Andrew Murnin and Conor Turbitt all rattling off 0-3 apiece while Rory Grugan, Cian McConville and Peter McGrane also scored.

New kid on the block Oisin Conaty didn’t get on the scoresheet but hit 0-10 in the three games that followed and has been one of the finds of the league, along with McGrane, for McGeeney’s men.

Armagh should have rattled the net at least once with a forward line operating without the O’Neill brothers, Oisin and Rian, Tiernan Kelly and the Cullyhanna trio of Aidan Nugent, Ross McQuillan and Jason Duffy.

On the day in question, only two Fermanagh players grabbed more than one score and that was wing-back Declan McCusker and Garvan Jones (one free) but on a positive note, they did have nine different names on their scoresheet, two more than Armagh.

McCusker’s first score, which came inside the opening two minutes, was the perfect example of how Fermanagh will want to play come Sunday. But the difference in now and the last time they met in the championship (2018) was that Armagh learnt their lesson immediately.

Armagh won possession from the throw up and Fermanagh instantly withdrew into their defensive shape, hoping for a turnover that duly came and, on the break, McCusker got the scoreboard up and running.

It was the perfect game-plan that worked in 2018, when Rory Gallagher’s men cruised past Armagh to win by five points on their way to an Ulster final, but six years on and Armagh won’t be found wanting just as easily.

As soon as McCusker raised the white flag, the calls came flooding in from the sideline for Aaron McKay and Paddy Burns to sit back on their own 45-metre line and protect the huge space that Fermanagh hoped to run into.

Another glaringly obvious ploy was the Armagh press on kick-outs. Fermanagh tried the bunch-and-break tactic, but the visiting side simply stood on the outside of the pack, cutting off that space to break into.

And with it, the Orchard County dominated the opposition’s kick-outs and created a number of goal-scoring opportunities, particularly in the first half, that on another day they simply won’t pass up.

It could be a case of damage limitation for Fermanagh but just keeping the score down won’t be enough for Kieran Donnelly’s side to book a semi-final spot. They’ll need something special up top and they’ll look to the likes of Ultan Kelm.

Kelm didn’t have his best day when the sides last met and the hard-working Joe McElroy certainly won that dual, although both were replaced late on, and we’ll likely see the pair go toe-to-toe again in what could be a decisive match-up.

Jones and Sean Cassidy (who didn’t start against Armagh) had been scoring freely throughout the league, registering 1-24 and 3-13 respectively, and Armagh will be wary of their attacking threat.

In defence, the main man-marking jobs will be handed to the Cullen brothers, Lee and Ché, who are usually up for any kind of battle. The problem is, for Fermanagh and possibly McGeeney, no one is really sure who Armagh’s best six forwards are.

Grugan, Murnin, Conaty and Turbitt seem like guaranteed starters. Campbell is arguably one of Armagh’s best players but has been used as an impact sub off the bench at different times in his career.

Rian O’Neill has only started one game while older sibling Oisin has been a bit-part player so far in 2024. Jarly Óg Burns started the Division Two league final at wing-forward and claimed Armagh’s opening two points.

Despite that recent defeat to Donegal at Croke Park, an Ulster final appearance is the bare minimum of Armagh’s championship expectations and with the squad McGeeney has at his disposal, getting their hands on the Anglo Celt will be the ambition.

For Fermanagh to upset the bookmakers odds, they’ll need the Orchard County to take their eye off the ball and have a bad day.

While Fermanagh will certainly not lie down, the league tables don’t lie and it’s hard to imagine anything other than an away win.


2024 – Fermanagh 0-11 Armagh 0-15
R Bogue, L Cullen, C Cullen, C McManus, D McCusker (0-2), S McGullion, J McMahon (0-1), B Horan, J McDade (0-1m), C McGee (0-1), C O’Shea (0-1), F O’Brien, T Bogue, G Jones (0-2 1f), U Kelm (0-1f)
Subs: J Elis for C McManus, S Cassidy (0-1f) for T Bogue, J Reihill for U Kelm, C Jones (0-1) for C McGee

Armagh: B Hughes (0-2 45), P Burns, A McKay, P McGrane (0-1), G McCabe, A Forker, C Mackin, B Crealey, S Campbell (0-3), A Murnin (0-3 1m), R Grugan (0-2), J McElroy, C McConville (0-1), C Turbitt (0-3 1f), O Conaty
Subs: J Burns for B Crealey, J Duffy for O Conaty, B McCambridge for J McElory, O O’Neill for C McConville, R McQuillan for P Burns

2024 – Fermanagh 0-11 Armagh 0-15 – NFL Div 2
2020 – Fermanagh 0-10 Armagh 3-14 – NFL Div 2
2019 – Armagh 1-9 Fermanagh 0-6 – NFL Div 2
2018 – Fermanagh 0-12 Armagh 0-7 – Ulster SFC
2018 – Armagh 1-16 Fermanagh 0-17 – NFL Div 3



Antrim 1-9 Fermanagh 1-10
Fermanagh 0-12 Monaghan 2-9

Meath 0-12 Fermanagh 1-9
Fermanagh 2-10 Kildare 0-12
Donegal 2-16 Fermanagh 0-8
Fermanagh 0-16 Cork 0-17
Fermanagh 0-11 Armagh 0-15
Louth 6-17 Fermanagh 0-11
Fermanagh 2-14 Cavan 1-13


Donegal 3-16 Armagh 1-6
Armagh 1-14 Tyrone 2-10
Armagh 2-7 Derry 0-17

Armagh 0-12 Louth 0-11
Armagh 2-16 Meath 0-10
Kildare 0-8 Armagh 2-16
Armagh 1-9 Donegal 0-12
Fermanagh 0-11 Armagh 0-15
Armagh 2-21 Cavan 0-12
Cork 2-16 Armagh 2-16
Armagh 0-15 Donegal 0-16


Garvan Jones 1-29 (12f, 1m)
Sean Cassidy 3-15 (4f, 1m)
Declan McCusker 1-10 (2m)

Conor Turbitt 2-32 (20f, 1-0 pen, 1m)
Rory Grugan 2-20 (9f)
Oisin Conaty 0-19

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