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Down to Division Three

April 7, 2014

Armagh 1-08 Donegal 2-10

Armagh have been relegated to Division 3 of the Football League following their Athletic Grounds 2-10 to 1-8 defeat by Donegal and results elsewhere going against the Orchard County.

Donegal secured their expected return to Division 1 with the win, but it was the result from O’Moore Park, Portlaois that put the relegation nails in the Armagh coffin. Needing a win for visitors Down the writing was on the wall at the interval as wind assisted Laois led 1-10 to 1-1 and hung on for a 1-16 to 2-10 victory despite having to play the last 15 minutes with 14 men.

As has been the norm for most of Armagh League games a poor start has proven very costly and that trend continued as Donegal raced four points clear playing against the breeze. With that lead cut in half Armagh were dealt a crucial blow when Michael Murphy netted a penalty following a foul on Colm McFadden. Still Armagh responded with 1-1 from Jamie Clarke to go with earlier points from Kyle Carragher and Aaron Kernan and trailed 1-5 to 1-3 at the short whistle. Armagh through a Tony Kernan point had cut the deficit to the minimum when Donegal shot the game changer with sheer simple direct football. A kick-out from Paul Durcan was caught by Rory Kavanagh who delivered long to Murphy who used his frame to nudge the defender aside and slip the ball home for his second goal. Armagh, as they did throughout the League, kept plugging away but the much needed goal never came to really ignite the home challenge. Campbell brought out a good stop and was denied what looked like a penalty and with Clarke denied any more goalscoring opportunities it was all ears to hear was the Down comeback going to save Armagh. For the second time in 5 days Paddy McBrearty was to send Armagh to despair. The u-21 skipper was introduced as a second half sub and helped himself to 4 points half of what he managed on Wednesday night but good enough to put the lights out on Armagh for the second time.

Supporters will be very disappointed following a second relegation for Armagh but given the hands left to play with in terms of personnel over the course of the League the outcome is not all that disastrous. Reigning Ulster champions Monaghan came from Division Three to the top table in both Championship and League. The disaster for Armagh will be next year if they cannot bounce back immediately up to Division Two. Louth, Fermanagh, Sligo, Wexford, Limerick, Tipperary and Clare will be the opposition but that is a long way in the offing. Getting a fully fit panel of players together and knuckling down to Championship preparation is what it is all about. Promoted from Division Three unbeaten and contesting a fifth U-21 final in a row Cavan are on the crest of a wave at present whilst Armagh seem at the depths of despair. All will be forgotten when the sides meet in the Championship at the Athletic Grounds, it is after that game that the failed League campaign will be judged. Armagh are re-building and trying out new tactics and players and at the end of the day it is Championship rather than League which matters. For Paul Grimley and his management June 8 is judgement day not April 6.

Armagh -P McEvoy; M Murray; G.McCooey (0-1), A Mallon, A Kernan (0-1) K Toner,

C.Rafferty, S Harold, C.Vernon, S. Campbell, K Dyas, E McVerry, J Clarke (1-1), K Carragher (0-1), T Kernan (0-3) Subs –R Grugan for McCooey, E Rafferty for Dyas, R Tasker (0-1) for Clarke.

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