Happy homecoming for rampant Armagh

February 11, 2013

• Armagh 8-26 Wicklow 1-2

By Richard Bullick

All-Ireland Intermediate champions Armagh celebrated their return to action on home soil by racking up a half-century worth of scores against outclassed Wicklow on a wintry afternoon in Culloville.

This was the team’s first outing in their own backyard since lifting the Mary Quinn Cup in Croke Park four months ago and they marked it in style by delivering the most emphatic of victories with the two Carolines, captain O’Hanlon and namesake O’Hare, grabbing the headlines.

The visitors actually found the net in the first period but Armagh managed a quartet of goals in each half and averaged more than a score every couple of minutes whereas Wicklow only raised the white flag twice all day.

Heavily beaten by Leitrim at home in their first outing of the campaign, Wicklow would have feared the worst against a highly-rated Armagh team coming off the back of a much more meaningful League opener away to Down last week.

And even the inclement weather which forced the postponement of yesterday’s Armagh men’s match couldn’t take the edge off the home side’s superiority as they made light of the elements to run out the easiest of winners.

Uncharacteristically scoreless last week, All Star O’Hanlon led the way with a personal haul of 2-5, followed by midfield partner Sinead McCleary – last Sunday’s hero – who also bagged a brace of goals as did young full forward Caitlin Malone from Carrickcruppen.

Malone is relishing getting first opportunity to fill the gap left by Shauna O’Hagan’s retirement and although there will be tougher tests ahead, her height will always make the 20-year-old a handful for defences.

At the other end of the experience scale, Mairead Tennyson earned a starting spot yesterday on the back of last week’s impressive cameo which helped Armagh snatch a dramatic draw with Down in Clonduff.

She was one of four Armagh goalscorers, along with corner foward Kelly Mallon who was the team’s third highest scorer thanks to supplementing that strike with a four point tally.

With the Orchard outfit in complete control, manager Daly took the opportunity to make liberal use of his bench with no fewer than 11 substitutes getting a run, including Caroline O’Hare who made hay with half a dozen points from play in spite of only coming on four minutes before half-time.

A player who has been around the county panel for quite a few seasons now, O’Hare – who got a brief run in Croke Park last October – impressively made the most of this relatively rare opportunity and her contribution suggests that Armagh have decent depth, at least for this level of football.

Teenagers Fionnuala McKenna and Siobhan Mackle chipped in with two points apiece with Marian McGuinness, sub Ciara Lennon and yet another youngster Cailin Duffy also among Armagh’s 11 scorers on the day.

Compared with last week’s team, Duffy had come in for fellow teenager Niamh Henderson at wing back with Tennyson taking over from Sinead McCoy in the No 12 jersey and Mackle getting a run at corner forward in place of Lennon.

Including Caoimhe Morgan, who has returned from a maternity break, eight players got on the field yesterday who weren’t involved in the Croke Park panel – Caitriona Haddock, Roisin Murphy, Laura Murphy, Eimear McCormack, Siobhan Feeney, Claire O’Callaghan and Danielle Morgan.

With skipper Mags McAlinden due back from injury and the experienced Clodagh McCann available again following work commitments, Armagh look to have a panel well capable of securing promotion to Division Two but they face a tough test away to Sligo next Sunday.

The Connacht county will be a very different proposition to lowly Wicklow, who only scored a solitary point in the entire second half of yesterday’s encounter as Armagh relentlessly added 4-16 to their account.

ARMAGH: K Daly; C Morgan, L Brown, S Marley; S Reel, N Marley, C Duffy (0-1); C O’Hanlon (capt, 2-5), S McCleary (2-3); M McGuinness (0-1), F McKenna (0-2), M Tennyson (1-0); S Mackle (0-2), C Malone (2-1), K Mallon (1-4).  Subs used – C O’Hare (0-6), C Haddock, S Grey, R Murphy, L Murphy, E McCormack, C Lennon (0-1), S Feeney, C O’Callaghan, D Morgan, S McCoy.  Subs not used – N Henderson, R O’Reilly, N Finnegan.