Armagh destroy down in Silverbridge rout

April 13, 2015

Richard Bullick in Silverbridge

ARMAGH 10-24 DOWN 0-0

Armagh hammered already relegated Down with 54 unanswered points in an embarrassing mismatch in Silverbridge where the hosts showed little mercy to outclassed opponents.

A Good Friday defeat away to Clare confirmed the Mournewomen would drop out of Division Two and few would have given them much hope of avoiding a whitewash by beating Armagh.

Having lost half a dozen leading lights from their All-Ireland Intermediate title winning team, weakened Down have sustained heavy punishment this term, leaking 7-19 to Westmeath, 9-22 to Cavan and 10-17 against Kildare when at least they replied with 3-10.

But this hiding was without even scant consolation as Sunday’s derby literally proved a completely pointless fixture for Down, though, in truth, it was metaphorically pointless for Armagh and bore no resemblance to the tougher tests ahead.

Having finished third they must now wait for Sunday’s play-off between the two unbeaten teams,Cavan and Donegal to see who their semi-final opponents will be the following weekend.

Down deserve credit for not simply pulling out of the fixture to avoid a predictable trouncing from their nearest neighbours, but the Orchard crew were ruthless in asserting superiority.

This seventh successive defeat for Down in 2015 was their heaviest of a chastening campaign and a record win for Armagh under James Daly both in terms of points scored and margin of victory.

The Armagh manager eventually withdrew his captain Caroline O’Hanlon, hat-trick scorer Aimee Mackin and chart-topper Fionnuala McKenna in the second half but not before they had helped themselves to a combined tally of 7-15.

All-Star duo Mairead Tennyson and vice-captain Caoimhe Morgan also signed off early but the Orchard defence didn’t have particularly testing shifts on a cold but dry afternoon, following torrential rain and snow earlier.

They kept Down absolutely scoreless for the entire game while Armagh hit 10-24 at the other end in spite of several superb blocks by visiting goalkeeper Katie Farrell.

Armagh hadn’t declared any targets in advance for what was likely to be a one-sided affair but if they had 10 goals and an aggregate of 50 points in mind they duly ticked both boxes along with the defensive clean sheet and inflicting Down’s worst defeat of the season.

The Mournewomen would have made the short trip with great trepidation and they were shown no neighbourly love by an Orchard outfit intent on payback for defeat in the 2013 NFL Division Two final.

Armagh’s costly late collapse that day in Parnell Park set their development plan back by 12 months, with a sense that Down weren’t particularly magnanimous in victory rubbing salt in the wounds.

So too did Down winning Team of the Year at the recent Newry and Mourne Sports Awards in spite of Ulster champions Armagh’s higher achievements in 2014.

Consequently Armagh came into this final regular league game wanting to emphatically prove that they are indeed the leading ladies locally so, unlike the experimental line-ups previously against Kildare and Clare, Daly sent out close to his strongest starting team available.

Apart from Moya Feehan, injured on international soccer duty with Northern Ireland Under 19s, and unavailable former captain Mags McAlinden, the only other exception was a fit-again Marian McGuinness who had been busy last week with her sister’s wedding.

Sisters Sarah and Niamh Marley returned to the team after being rested for the Meath match with McGuinness and her Carrickcruppen club colleague Sinead Finnegan making way.

It was expected Daly might make mass changes at half-time to maximise opportunity for fringe figures to stake claims for starting spots, secure bench berths or even just get game-time ahead of the knock-out contests.

Armagh were 6-11 to no score up at the break but with the evident Orchard determination to really rub Down’s noses in it, the first of nine substitutions didn’t arrive until six minutes into the second half.

Even then the first three changes were defenders but finally arch tormentor Mackin came off on 44 minutes followed by O’Hanlon, McKenna, Aoife McCoy and Morgan with 10 remaining.

Mackin had completed her first Armagh hat-trick of goals at senior level before being replaced, but yet again All Ireland Player of the Year O’Hanlon had to be content with two majors.

Full -orward McKenna kicked 2-8 to top the Orchard charts from Mackin’s 3-3 and O’Hanlon’s 2-4 while Kelly Mallon went on a late scoring spree to finish with 1-5.

Crossmaglen’s Lauren McConville, playing further forward in the absence of Feehan and McAlinden, got 1-2 with Aoife McCoy contributing 1-1 and the other point came from sub Shauna Grey.

It was a wonderful weekend for Armagh with both Mackin’s Minors and the senior side each hitting 10 goals in the space of 24 hours.  The youngsters showed the way with a 10-33 to 1-2 rout of Fermanagh in an Ulster Championship group game at Clonmore.

ARMAGH: K Daly; M Tennyson, S Marley, C Morgan; S Reel, S McCleary, N Marley; C Malone, C O’Hanlon (capt; 2-4); L Kenny, K Mallon (1-5), A McCoy (1-1), L McConville (1-2), F McKenna (2-8), A Mackin (3-3).  Subs: S McCoy for Tennyson (36 mins), M Sheridan for Reel (38), M McGuinness for N Marley (40), C Marley for Mackin (44), S Grey (0-1) for McConville (46), C Duffy for Morgan, L Sheridan for O’Hanlon, S Finnegan for McCoy, S Gamble for McKenna (all 50).