AT the end of every month, Phillips present an award to someone they reckon is the manager of that month.

Ditto at the end of the year.

This month, regardless of what else happens in Croke Park, it simply has to be Charlie Mulgrew. In fact, regardless of what else happens here in September, or in Athens this month, it has to be Charlie Mulgrew.

Back in November, no one wanted the Fermanagh.

No one. Then three weeks ago, his side shocked Cork.

Afterwards he spoke about how his team might be the Greece of this year's championship.

Nice line, we thought, and yeah, they might get to the last eight. He meant they could go all the way. They could too. When you beat Armagh, nothing is impossible.

Barry Owens, their full back, thinks like that. At this stage last year he not only saw Owen Mulligan destroy his chances of winning an All Star but worse, he saw his teammates being devastated by Tyrone by 19 points.

They suffered from stagefright that day. They didn't yesterday. But then, as he says, this is a different team.

"We had no fear coming in today. We just wanted to play football. That's exactly what we did. We don't think of history. This is more or less a new team. We just dig deep and play as we can play and we don't give a monkey's." They don't either. They were four points down after eight minutes and deep down, their supporters must have feared a repeat of last year's humiliation. In all probability, so must have the veterans who called it a day last winter. Not this crew.

They kept going. Even when Tom Brewster and Shane McDermott and Stephen Maguire kicked those wides down the stretch. "We're going to have to get a few of them forwards in for shooting practise soon; they were giving us heartache down there, " joked Owens afterwards. But as his colleague Raymond Johnson pointed out, "Fortunately we got the extra man in the right position at the right time and Tom Brew was there to stick over the point." It was fitting that it was Brewster who got the winning point. The county ground is named after his father, Mick. His brother, Paul, was their best player of the last decade. Everyone was glad to see him get the run he did last year but it's a shame he missed out on this ("I just wish I was six years younger, to play with boys like these with McRory medals coming out of their pockets, " he told us after last year's last 12 win over Mayo). But he'll know, Tom could have too. He came back from Australia the Thursday before the Ulster quarter-final defeat to Tyrone. The following Sunday after that gallant defeat, Mulgrew asked his players did they want to leave it at that. The players to a man said they didn't. Neither did Brewster who showed up at the following training session. Yesterday was a vindication for the qualifier system (imagine condemning Fermanagh to a summer off when they could have been doing this? ) and vindication for the quality that is persistence.

For Armagh, it was a hard one to swallow. Joe Kernan did so graciously though.

"We started off well and maybe that was a bad thing.

We seemed to take our foot off the pedal and started to play as individuals to a certain extent. But nothing should take away from Fermanagh today. They were magnificent. They worked hard all over the field, they ran themselves into the ground for each other. In the last five minutes, the game was as tense a five minutes as you'll see in Croke Park this year. And they came though it." So they did, to leave us with a remarkable scenario.

The two teams that contested last year's All Ireland will not contest this year's semi-final afterall; instead their places will be taken by two teams that played through a storm last July in front of 15,000 wet souls in Sligo. There'll be a lot more people in Croke Park in two weeks' time to see John Maughan once again go up against the county he once managed. Ciaran McDonald and David Brady will be there this time. And, incredibly, 10 Fermanagh men who didn't start that night.

That night in Sligo, they thought it couldn't get any better. It has.