Armagh came out in top in the NFL Division Three final, defeating Fermanagh by 1-16 to 0-17 at Croke Park in a dress rehearsal for their Ulster SFC clash on May 19.
Andrew Murnin’s 53rd minute goal sealed it for Kieran McGeeney’s side, but they had to defend frantically in the closing stages to hold out against a resurgent Erne side, with Seamus Quigley finishing with an eight points tally.
Sean Quigley’s day lasted just two minutes. A late pre-match inclusion in the Fermanagh attack, a black card saw him exit the action before he had a chance to make a much-anticipated impact.
Armagh, who had gone through their league campaign unbeaten, eased into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead inside the opening ten minutes, with Aidan Forker, Andrew Murnin and Niall Grimley (free).
But the Erne men went level after Seamus Quigley converted his second free, and centre back Declan McCusker powered through to score.
James McMahon’s role as Fermanagh sweeper was becoming increasingly effective, and Aidan Breen also frustrated the Orchard attack, executing a vital tackle on Rory Grugan as he linked dangerously with Murnin, but Kieran McGeeney’s side did nudge back in front with a fine score from wing back Gregory McCabe.
Thanks to the graft of Tom Clarke, Fermanagh sneaked ahead momentarily with a Conall Jones effort, but that was cancelled out instantly by Grimley.
Quigley posed little threat from open play, but he was deadly from the placed ball, and his fifth converted free had his side ahead again on 28 minutes, after they had been level on five occasions.
Fermanagh had to be patient as they probed for openings in a packed Orchard defence, but they continued to force the transgressions that handed Quigley the opportunity to land his sixth point, before Murnin levelled again, 0-08 each at the break.
Crealey’s elegant fetch sent sub Ryan McShane through to regain the lead for Armagh, and with Grimley also proving an effective outlet for kick-outs, they stretched their opponents along the flanks.
As they pushed two points ahead, Quigley’s touch deserted him at the other end, with two frees drifting the wrong side of a post.
A second point from defender Patrick Burns made it a three point game, and Armagh were beginning to smell title success.
As the game slipped into its final quarter, they held a two points lead, but struck a killer blow in the 53rd minute when Gregory McCabe rescued a ball that appeared to be drifting wide, pushing it into the path of Murnin, who finished to the net from close range.
It was far from over for Fermanagh, however, and they fought back with points from Quigley, Conall Jones and substitute Tomas Corrigan, but they just couldn’t get close enough to deny the Orchard men.
Armagh: B Hughes; P Burns (0-02), A McKay, C Mackin; N Rowland (0-01), B Donaghy, G McCabe (0-01); S Sheridan, C Vernon; B Crealey (0-01), A Forker (0-02), N Grimley (0-04, 3f); R Grugan, A Murnin (1-03), E Rafferty.
Subs: R McShane (0-02) for Vernon (32), G McParland for Rafferty (47), K Dyas for Rowland (59), O MacIomhair for Grugan (70), R Owens for Mackin (72)
Fermanagh: P Cadden; M Jones, C Cullen, E McHugh; B Mulrone (0-01), D McCusker (0-01), J McMahon; E Donnelly, R Jones (0-02); T Clarke, C McGee, A Breen; Sean Quigley, C Jones (0-03), Seamus Quigley (0-09, 9f).
Subs: C Corrigan for Sean Quigley (BC, 2), K Connor for McHugh (h-t), R Corrigan for McGee (40), D Teague for Clarke (44), T Corrigan (0-01) for Breen (50), E Maguire for McMahon (63).
Referee: J Molloy (Galway).