Defiant Orangemen March On

July 21, 2014

Armagh 1-17 Roscommon 1-12

Following relegation to Division Three, Armagh supporters could never have envisaged playing championship football into August but after comfortably accounting for Roscommon at a damp Dr Hyde Park, Armagh are into the last 12 of the All-Ireland SFC.  On Saturday August the 2nd Armagh will play Meath, time and venue to be confirmed.

Since evoking a media ban following the coverage of the “Parade Row” in the Ulster championship win over Cavan, the siege mentality has certainly worked for team management in terms of delivering results. A draw with Monaghan followed by a replay defeat threw up an away match in Omagh against Tyrone. Armagh pulled off one of their sweetest ever championship victories 0-13 to 0-10 and were rewarded with another very tricky away trip to Hyde Park where they exited the 2012 championship at the hands of hosts Roscommon 1-11 to 1-9.

Armagh made two changes to the team that started in Omagh Brendan Donaghy and Kyle Carragher replaced Michael Murray and Eugene McVerry in the starting line-up. Roscommon’s John Evans’ were in sparkling form following their 0-16 to 0-5 demolition of Cavan the previous week again on home soil.

A Diarmuid Murtagh free gave Roscommon the lead for the only time in the game after 2 minutes followed by yellow cards for Aidan Forker and Kevin Higgins. Tony Kernan slotted over a “45” four minutes later to level before Stefan Campbell gave Armagh a lead they would never relinquish on 7 minutes. A second Murtagh free restored parity but three points in a row from Tony Kernan, Andy Mallon (great vision from Tony Kernan) and Kyle Carragher (following a great delivery from McKeever) to stretch the lead to 5-2 after 16 minutes. Roscommon reduced the deficit to the minimum with converted frees from Murtagh and Cathal Cregg with a quarter hour to the short whistle ironically they were to be the last home scores of the half leaving them with no score from play in the opening half. Armagh, who had replaced Aidan Forker (walking a tight line since his yellow card) with Eugene McVerry, finished with points from Tony Kernan (free) Jamie Clarke , and a fisted Aaron Findon point following a long delivery from Tony Kernan. It was looking rosy in the Orchard at the break as the visitors led by double scores 0-8 to 0-4.  Armagh’s direct brand of football penetrated Roscommon’s blanket defence  time and time again and with the hosts not functioning in attack (they had 12 wides in total) ever-improving Armagh were in command at the interval.

Kevin Higgins fisting over after 20 seconds of the restart broke the Roscommon free scoring sequence but Jamie Clarke restored Armagh’s four-point lead from a free off the ground. Enda Daly replied for the Rossies but Tony Kernan scored one of the best points of the game from a free close to the stand sideline. A more purposeful Roscommon were coming more into it and reduced the arrears to two, 0-8 to 0-10, thanks to efforts from Conor Daly and Diarmuid Murtagh (free).

The Orchard County introduced the vastly experienced Aaron Kernan for Stefan Campbell and he immediately steadied the ship with some very clever passes to club mate Clarke who was coming more and more into the game. Jamie latched onto the ball and split the posts then followed up with a lay-off to his Crossmaglen team-mate Carragher for a lovely score. Cathal Shine interrupted the Clarke flow with a home point, only for Clarke to cancel it out with another gem.

A spectacular drop-kick piledriver from Kevin Higgins’ from 30 metres was punched two handed clear by the alert Philip McEvoy. Roscommon, however, managed to recycle possession back to Murtagh for his fifth point.  Stephen Harold cleverly fisted a point following a surging run and Armagh had a let off after the ball had come back off the upright as Senan Kilbride instinctively flicked over with a goal at his mercy. Rory Grugan replaced Tony Kernan as Roscommon recorded their twelfth wide.

Impressive midfielder Harold powered through for his second fisted point before the result was finally put beyond doubt when Stefan Forker, just introduced for Carragher, rose highest to punch Aaron Kernan’s long delivery to the net in the 64th minute to leave it 1-15 to 0-11.

Kevin Dyas tagged on a point to put eight between the sides and deserved breathing space for Armagh, so one thought. Losing the ball coming out of defence saw Roscommon pounce for a goal as substitute Ciaran Murtagh fired to the net after McEvoy could only parry his brother Diarmuid’s initial shot.  Rory Grugan, immediately replied to the goal with an Armagh point leaving Donie Smith to get one back for the Connacht side. Eugene McVerry spurned a late goal chance into the side-netting.

Meath, beaten 3-20 to 1-10 by Dublin, are next up for Armagh on Saturday week. The Orangemen are on the march and the Royals will have to be at their very best if they are going to bring an end to their championship quest. The main thing this time round though is that Armagh, because of their recent exploits, will be installed as favourites to book a quarter-final berth. The underdog tag always seems to suit the Orchard County best. Armagh are a work in progress with progress being the appropriate word as they would be the first to admit that they are far from the finished article. The main thing for supporters is that the graph is on an upward spiral even if those in charge continue to remain media shy.

Armagh – P McEvoy; A Mallon (0-1), C Vernon, J Morgan; M Shields, B Donaghy, C McKeever; S Harold (0-2), A Findon (0-1); T Kernan (0-4, 2f, 1’45), K Dyas (0-2), S Campbell (0-1); K Carragher (0-2), A Forker, J Clarke (0-3, 1f). Subs: E McVerry for A Forker, A Kernan for S Campbell, R Grugan (0-1) for T Kernan, S Forker (1-0) for K Carragher, F Moriarty for M Shields.

Roscommon – D O’Malley; N Carty, S McDermott, N Collins; D Keenan, N Daly, C Cafferkey; C Shine (0-1), K Higgins (0-1); I Kilbride, E Smith (0-1), C Daly (0-1); S Kilbride (0-1), C Cregg (0-1f), D Murtagh (0-5, 4f). Subs: D O’Gara for C Cafferkey, R Stack for I Kilbride, D Smith (0-1) for E Smith, C Murtagh (1-0) for C Cregg, M Finneran for S Kilbride.

Referee – E Kinsella.