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GAA: Erne hold Ferm to shock Orchard; Armagh 0-11 Fermanagh 0-12.

Byline: Francie MOONEY

FERMANAGH caused the shock of the decade, sending All-Ireland favourites Armagh crashing out of the title race.

Charlie Mulgrew's Erne battlers are through to their first ever All-Ireland semi-final following their heroic exploits at Croke Park.

For raw courage, unflappable self-belief and unbelievable commitment, this Fermanagh display will take some beating.

Tom Brewster's dramatic stoppage time winner sparked the sort of pitch invasion normally reserved for final day.

Armagh's danger man Steven McDonnell hit four points inside the opening 10 minutes as last year's beaten finalists threatened to over run the Lakeland minnows.

But the tide turned once Mulgrew's side began to rediscover the courage and desire that had carried them through wonderful victories over Meath, Cork and Donegal.

Barry Owens and Shane McDermott tightened things up at the back and once Colm Bradley swept over the opening score on 10 minutes Fermanagh believed they could do it.

Fearless and positive, and equal to anything Armagh could throw at them, they were inspired by a superb James Sherry score which brought them to within a point.

And Croke Park erupted on 22 minutes when Colm Bradley levelled the game.

Battling for every ball as if their lives depended on it, Fermanagh had their opponents severely rattled.

Stephen Maguire brought his tally to five with his first four from play, and Fermanagh incredibly led by two points as half time approached.

Things got worse for Armagh. They missed a goal chance when Diarmaid Marsden punched a ball against the crossbar, and moments later they were reduced to 14 men when defender Enda McNulty was sent off for a crude high tackle on Martin McGrath.

Fermanagh led by 0-8 to 0-6 at the break but the sides were level within four minutes of the restart, thanks to Paddy McKeever.

And when Kieran McGeeney blasted over an inspirational long range score, Armagh fans were singing again.

But Eamon Maguire darted through to level the scores for the third time, and the Fermanagh defence once more closed ranks, shackling an increasingly frustrated Armagh attacking unit.

Clarke, still scoreless after more than an hour, was hauled ashore, but Oisin McConville, kept out of the starting 15 by injury, came into the game to shoot his side's first point in 15 minutes.

It was to be Armagh's last however and it was Fermanagh who kept up the attacking pressure, only to see a succession of efforts to sail harmlessly wide.

But super-sub Brewster had the winning of the game. First he angled over a superb equaliser, and in the dying moments seared over a sensational winner to send Fermanagh into seventh heaven.

ARMAGH: P Hearty; E McNulty, F Bellew, A Mallon; K Hughes, K McGeeney (0-1), A O''Rourke; P Loughran, P McGrane; P McKeever (0-1, 1f), T McEntee, O McConville; S McDonnell (0-7; 3f), R Clarke, D Marsden (0-1). SUBS: B Mallon for Toal (31), A McCann for B Mallon (h/t), K McElvanna for O''Rourke (53), O McConville (0-1) for McKeever (56), B Mallon for Clarke (60).

FERMANAGH: N Tinney; N Bogue, B Owens, R McCluskey; R Johnston, S McDermott, P Sherry; M McGrath, L McBarron; E Maguire (0-1), S Maguire (0-5; 4f), M Little; C O''Reilly, J Sherry (0-1), C Bradley (0-2; 1 45). SUBS: T Brewster (0-3, 1f) for O''Reilly (24), D McGrath for J Sherry (57).

REFEREE: J Bannon (Longford).


CHARLIE MULGREW AND JOE KERNAN; GREEN GIANTS: Fermanagh players celebrate their victory after the final whistle at Croke Park
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Aug 8, 2004
Previous Article:GAA: CAT CARTER EXPECTING HARD WATER; Guinness All-Ireland SHC semi-final: Kilkenny vWaterford, Croke Pk, 3.30pm.
Next Article:GAA: MAYO DUMP OUT CHAMPS; All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals: Tyrone 1-9 Mayo 0-16, from Croke Park Tyrone fail to take chances and pay price.

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