Fermanagh to sit tight and squeeze out Longford
Allianz National Football League Division Three: Longford v Fermanagh (tomorrow, 3pm, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park)
IN their games against Longford and Fermanagh, newly-promoted table-toppers Armagh led for the sum total of 30 seconds.
Now granted, the weather perhaps had a bit to do with it, particularly last weekend when the Ernemen hit five of their seven points in the first half with the aid of the wind, and spent the rest of the day hanging on for a draw.
Longford were unlucky not to get at least a draw off the Orchard in the mid-February snow, having led by 1-10 to 0-9 heading down the final straight only to be caught by a late recovery from Kieran McGeeney's side.
That's where the bar is at for these two but only one of them can join Armagh in Croke Park next week, and subsequently in Division Two next year.
The last fortnight has taught us more about Rory Gallagher's mission than the previous three months had.
What is clear is that they aren't going to hit summer and become a new version of themselves. They are going to sit tight, frustrate the opposition and attempt to wear them down.
Armagh were the better team on the whole last weekend and yet when you analyse the game in full, you perhaps learn more about Fermanagh.
The Ernemen were hammered at midfield for most of the game. Couldn't win a ball for most of the game, especially the second half. Hadn't enough punch going forward. Clung preciously to a one-point lead with just 13 men for the last 15 minutes.
And yet they led the best team in the league for an hour and got a draw out of it. They worked like dogs. The way they kept getting across to tackle inside their own 45' in those numerically disadvantaged minutes was enough to convince that there is no lying down in them.
They will scrap for their lives in Longford, and it will take every ounce of it. Because while they have the best defensive record of the top four, they also have the worst attacking record by a more considerable distance, averaging 1-11 per game.
That's where the house will fall down on them at some stage this summer but they have enough about them to take a good shot at a Longford side that will be without the honeymooning Michael Quinn.
He is a serious loss but they were good enough without him to recover from a slow start and overcome Westmeath last weekend, with Conor Berry's late fisted goal sealing it.
They made Westmeath pay for indiscipline that saw them reduced to 13 men and Fermanagh have had their own problems in that regard. The fine line between controlled aggression and recklessness has been crossed on occasion, and it has been costly.
Robbie Smyth has hit 1-20 and will take the most watching, most likely from Mickey Jones, but they have had 18 different scorers in the League and have a general tendency to share them around.
That greater spread of scoring threat will not have the same opportunity to manifest itself against the green wall in front of their goal. Fermanagh to shut the game down and snatch it.