Orange blossom in royal performance

March 3, 2014

Allianz NFL Division 2 Armagh 0-19 Meath 2-10

Clearly the break did Armagh the world of good, as the hard work they packed in over the last three weeks told the tale inside the last quarter in this Allianz NFL Division 2 fixture at Pairc Tailteann on Saturday night. Riddled with injuries and a lack of regular experienced defenders, Armagh were seen by many as mere cannon fodder for Meath who are always very formidable opponents on home soil. The concession of a very soft goal, a comeback from five and four point deficits, and a show of resilience and resolve when the chips were down warmed the cockles of the loyal band of Orchard supporters who made the journey to Navan.

With team captain Jamie Clarke leading by example with a massive personal haul of 11 points (8 frees) it was the overall team performance that should overshadow his superb individual performance. Goalkeeper Philip McEvoy will shoulder all the blame for Meath’s opening goal from a speculative Michael Newman effort but the Dromintee custodian more than made up for his error with three super stops and was unlucky that another save saw Bryan McMahon punch the loose ball to the net, which left Armagh 2-5 to 0-6 in arrears. A late flurry, with 3 points from Jamie and one from Harold, meant that Armagh had scored 0-10

against the wind in the opening half and only trailed by the minimum 2-5 to 0-10.

From the resumption it was Mick O’Dowd’s men who took the game to Armagh as Newman, McMahon and a fine Eamon Wallace effort left four points in it, seven minutes into the second-half. Paul Grimley’s men outscored Meath by 0-9 to 0-2 thereafter but the home side remained in front until the 58th minute when Caolan Rafferty left the scores tied for the third, and final time, in the game. Lively substitute Eugene McVerry earned Armagh the lead for the first time, 0-16 to 2-9, in the 63rd minute followed by a Clarke free. David Bray raised the first white flag for 16 minutes for the home side but Man of the Match Jamie brought his tally to 11 with the last two points, to earn Armagh their first win of the campaign. Things did not run for Armagh in the defeat to Down but the loss of Graham Reilly and the switching of Caolan Rafferty had big influences on the game.

It’s back to the Athletic Grounds this Saturday night with high flying Laois 1-20 to 0-8 winners over Galway, the visitors. The league table looks a little healthier now that there are 3 teams below Armagh in the table. But look at the weekend fixtures in Division two and a win over our Queen’s county visitors will see Armagh emerge as promotion candidates.

Armagh – Phillip McEvoy; Paul Hughes, Andy Mallon, Michael Murray; Mark Shields, Charlie Vernon, Feidhlim O’Neill; Aaron Findon, Stephen Harold (0-2); Tony Kernan, Kevin Dyas, Caolan Rafferty (0-2); Jamie Clarke (0-11, 8fs), Stephen Campbell (0-2, 1 45), Oisin McKeever (0-1). Subs – Stephen Forker for Findon (29, black card), Brian Mallon for Kernan (40), Eugene McVerry (0-1) for McKeever (54), Johnny Hanratty for Vernon (70).

Meath – Paddy O’Rourke; Donal Keogan, Kevin Reilly, Mickey Burke; Padraic Harnan, Bryan Menton, Eoghan Harrington; Andrew Tormey, Shane O’Rourke (0-1); Bryan McMahon (1-2), David Bray (0-1f), Graham Reilly (0-2); Eamon Wallace (0-2), Stephen Bray, Michael Newman (1-2, 0-1f). Subs – Damien Carroll for G Reilly (52), Dalton McDonagh for S Bray (52), Seamus Kenny for Tormey (53), Donncha Tobin for Carroll (63 black card), David Larkin for O’Rourke (64).