Hearty wary of another Erne ambush
PAUL Hearty had front row seats for one of the biggest ambushes in Armagh history – and he is fearful or a repeat viewing at Brewster Park tonight.
The stakes were sky-high 14 years ago as the Orchard county met Fermanagh at Croke Park in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Joe Kernan's side had an All-Ireland win and a final appearance in the bank over the previous two years and a semi-final spot against the winners of Mayo and Tyrone, who were meeting in the second part of the double-header that day, was taken as read.
They just couldn't shake off a resilient Fermanagh though and when Tom Brewster put the Erne county 0-12 to 0-11 ahead at the death, the Crossmaglen goalkeeper ran out from his line, barged a Fermanagh player out of the way and tried to quickly start one last shot at redemption – but it never came.
There's a semi-final spot on the line tonight too, this time in Ulster, and Hearty is again fearful of Fermanagh upsetting the odds, even if the shock value would be considerably lower than it was on that famous day in Dublin back in 2004.
“Rory Gallagher and Fermanagh are probably sitting in the perfect position,” said Hearty. “We beat them in the Division Three final and there was also a tough draw during the League.
“I think that it's Rory now who has all the cards to play. That final defeat gives them the perfect motivation.
“Going by what I've read in the papers, everyone has rowed in behind Rory this year. He has 100 percent commitment from all the boys and they'll do exactly what he wants them to.
“It's like the Prodigal son returning. He helped Donegal to an All-Ireland title, managed them and now he's back with his home county and everyone is singing off the one hymn sheet.
“It's Brewster Park, it's a tight field and he has Armagh where he wants them.”
When the Fermanagh team was announced on Thursday evening, all eyes immediately darted to the full-forward line.
Penciled in at 13, 14 and 15 are the Quigley brothers, Seamus and Sean, and Conall Jones.
It's as physical an inside line as Gallagher could have selected, and if they all start then Orchard goalkeeper Blaine Hughes is likely to face an aerial bombardment at some stage, but Hearty said that it's a challenge that the young Carrickcruppen goalkeeper should be relishing.
“If that was me I'd be saying ‘bring them on'.
“Kieran (McGeeney) will probably bring Charlie Vernon back so you'll have him and Brendy (Donaghy) in their against them.
“Those boys can look after themselves and they can compete in the air if Fermanagh throw high ball in.
“I don't think they'll put too many high balls in, just a few.
“I was waiting for it in the League final but it never came but it will be a physical battle in there regardless.”
March's Croke Park meeting between the two sides was everything a purist could desire. Heavy scoring, lots of kick-passing, eye-catching points – it was a ‘nice' game.
Hearty, however, is readying himself for the opposite in Enniskillen tonight.
“It's not going to be the open game we had in Croke Park because that didn't work for Rory,” he said.
“Armagh can play that sort of game, they have the footballers for it, and I enjoyed the League final.
“You were seeing that they could swing the ball about and put good ball into the inside forwards, but they won't get much chance to do that.
“The way Rory is going to set Fermanagh up, he's going to have lots of men behind the ball and he's going to have his players trying anything to upset any Armagh momentum.
“When a team plays like that, Armagh aren't going to have too many opportunities to play fast 40-yard balls into their half-forwards and full-forwards unless it's on the counter-attack.
“Fermanagh will be more defensive than they were in the League final and they'll try to bring Armagh into a war of attrition.
“They'll try and draw fouls because Seamus Quigley is one of the best free-takers about when it comes to off the ground.
“Armagh have to be very careful when it comes to their tackling.
“I think it's going to be a real hard-hitting battle.”