Armagh survive with style

April 8, 2013

● Allianz NFL Division II: Armagh 0-21 Galway 1-12

All Armagh could do was beat Galway and hope that a result or two elsewhere would go their way. The last time Galway were at the Athletic Grounds they were winners of a very high scoring game 1-20 to 0-18 and not many would have expected that there would be another high scoring repeat as Armagh turned on the style by hitting 21 points 17 of which came from open play. While the final score depicts a comfortable victory it looked far from that on the cards 7 minutes into the second half, as wind assisted Galway, who had trailed 5-0 then 8-2, and were 0-10 to 1-3 behind at the short whistle had drawn level 1-7 to 0-10.

But Armagh, boosted by some terrific individual performances from midfielder Stephen Harold (0-3), half-back Aaron Kernan (0-5) and half- forward Kevin Dyas (0-5), rallied magnificently to kill off the Tribesmen and await their fate. Justin McNulty’s Laois were 0-10 to 0-2 half-time leaders in Wexford and the second biggest cheer of the day greeted the announcer’s news that Armagh had retained their Division Two status as Wexford were defeated. Armagh will have the Division One relegated duo of Donegal and Down for company in next year’s League along with promoted Meath and Monaghan who will replace Wexford and Longford who make the drop from Division Two.

Forced to field without team Captain Ciaran McKeever, who was banned following his excursion onto the field in the Louth game, which he missed through injury, Armagh manager Paul Grimley was also missing Johnny Hanratty (unavailable) and James Morgan (injury) and brought Paul McKeown, Mark Shields, James Lavery and Charlie Vernon into the team for this must win encounter with a Galway side holding a very slim promotion hope. Wind assisted Armagh came flying out of the blocks and had 2 wides on the board before Kevin Dyas latched onto a Tony Kernan pass to open the scoring. Tony Kernan scored the second point following good work by Shields and Aaron Kernan opened his account on 10 minutes. Midfielder Harold who gave a majestic high fielding performance (must have had at least 15 clean catches in the game) punched over Armagh’s fourth point. Raiding defenders Kernan and Shields were posing massive problems for the visitors as Aaron made it 5 nil with his second point.

It is no coincidence that the departure of Shields through injury replaced by Declan McKenna disrupted the home flow as Galway came into the game. Meehan converted following a foul by Donaghy as Galway opened their account midway through the half. A short kick-out from McEvoy to Rafferty was then passed to McKenna who gave Dyas the opportunity to point Armagh into a 6-1 lead. Bradshaw set up Armstrong for a fleeting goal chance but he elected to take his point. Still well in control the Orchard boys added 2 more points from the boot of Aaron and the fist of Harold. Out of the blue a long ball from Meehan was caught by Doherty and he rifled a left foot shot past McEvoy in the home goals and Bradshaw hit a bad wide from the kick-out. A sweeping Armagh move saw Stefan Forker extend the lead 0-9 to 1-2 with his first score of the afternoon. Armstrong and Aaron Kernan traded frees to bring the half to a close with Armagh 0-10 to 1-3 in front.

In trouble from the outset at midfield Galway made two interval substitutions which had an immediate effect as Greg Higgins and Danny Cummins came on for Griffin and Hehir. Two points apiece from Armstrong and Meehan inside the opening 7 minutes of the re-start stunned the home crowd but gave the 50 or so travelling support something to cheer as they saw their team draw level 1-7 to 0-10. Crucially though the next score came Armagh’s way in a very soft way as O’Donnell was penalised for picking the ball off the ground and Aaron duly said thanks by restoring the Armagh lead. Having his best outing in the Orange jersey Dyas rowed in with a brace of points as the Galway defence found him too hot to handle all day. Corner back Duane showed why he is in that position as he made a terrible goal attempt at the other end as Galway tried to rally for the second time. A Forker free stretched the lead to four before the Maghery man lofted over the score of the game for 0-15 to 1-7. Armstrong and substituted Cummins replied with Galway points before Dyas capped off a terrific performance with a catch and run at speed before pointing with the fist for his fifth point all from play. Harold added his third as Armagh got closer to the win but still could not rest easy as the elusive speedy Cummins showed as he got his second point. Armagh brought on Brian Mallon for Tony Kernan and James Donnelly for Donaghy as Bradshaw saw his last piece of action before being replaced with a good point. Forker, Rafferty and Clarke hit 3 points as Armagh went 0-20 to 1-11 ahead. Paul Conroy got Galway’s last point but the scoring was finished by Mallon for the hosts who won this crucial free flowing encounter with style.

Divisional status secure means that the headaches are only beginning for the Armagh management who now have the task of trimming their large League squad down as the championship preparations begin in earnest. The League campaign has thrown up a few options and positional options for management as they now develop a plan of action for the Cavan game. Paul McKeown, Mark Shields, Stephen Harold certainly did their prospects no harm. Orchard supporters should not get too carried away though as this was only a meaningless League game as far as Galway were concerned but on the bright side any day you can score 16 times from play is a good day at the office. Armagh Philip McEvoy; Paul McKeown, Brendan Donaghy, Mark Shields; Aaron Kernan (0-5), Kieran Toner, Finnian Moriarty; James Lavery, Stephen Harold (0-3); Caolan Rafferty (0-1), Charlie Vernon, Kevin Dyas (0-5); Gavin McParland, Tony Kernan (0-1), Stefan Forker (0-4).  Subs- Declan McKenna for Shields, Sean Clarke (0-1) for McParland, Brian Mallon (0-1) for Tony Kernan, James Donnelly for Donaghy, John Kingham for Harold