Terrific fightback

January 11, 2016

Dr McKenna Cup Monaghan 2-9 Armagh 0-16

They say that a week is a long time in politics well this applies to football also as a terrific second half performance by Armagh which saw them claw back a 5 point deficit and claim a one point victory over Ulster Champions Monaghan.

Rightly criticised for a poor performance a week ago Armagh must be credited with a much improved showing this week when they turned a pending defeat into victory with Stefan Campbell, skipper Ciaran McKeever and midfielder Niall Grimley to the fore.

This win for Armagh brings them right into the mix for possible advancement into the semi-finals provided they can overcome Ulster University at the Athletic Grounds on Wednesday night. In the other final game in Section C unbeaten Cavan take on pointless Monaghan. It would take a big win for Armagh and a big loss for Cavan to deny the Breffni men outright Section victory but victory for Armagh alone might give them the best losers place in the semi-finals.

Eugene McVerry was a late replacement for Charlie Vernon in the Armagh selected starting 15 and with Miceal McKenna selected at number 11 were the only two changes to the team that started against Cavan in Crossmaglen in the opening round.

Armagh registered the first score from the throw-in as Andy Murnin fired over but was cancelled by a Barry McGinn free before a third minute Stefan Campbell free restored the visitors lead. Colin Walshe levelled for Monaghan but Armagh points from substitute Niall McConville and Rory Grugan had them 4-2 up on the quarter hour. Monaghan who were guilty of some bad misses struck for a 22 minutes goal from the games topscorer McGinn and a minute later it was 1-3 to 0-4 as Karl O’Connor pointed for the home side. McGinn and Campbell swopped frees but two on the trot from Daniel McKenna and McGinn as we entered added on time had Monaghan 1-6 to 0-5 to the good but a late Armagh rally yielded points for Campbell and McParland to leave it 1-6 to 0-7 at the short whistle.

Campbell opened the second half scoring and the game was down to the minimum. McGinn opened the home second half account and the Farneymen pounced for their second goal as Owen Duffy fired past an exposed Matthew McNeice who made a few crucial saves to keep Armagh afloat when needed. 2-7 to 0-8 in arrears it was there for Monaghan to take but it was Armagh who responded to the setback second goal the better as they outscored their opponents 0-8 to 0-2 in the last 25 minutes. Rafferty with 2 points sandwiched in between was one from Campbell and the deficit was down to two before Shane Duffy broke the sequence to take Monaghan to 2-8 on 57 minutes but would not register again until the last score of the game by which time Armagh had secured victory. Armagh hit 5 points without reply as McKenna, Grugan, McParland levelled the match with 5 minutes to go. Stefan Forker and Rafferty then put Armagh two clear before the last reply came from the home side too late to alter the result.

0-16 and 8 different scores will have left Armagh supporters and management a lot more pleased with themselves but it was the manner in which they took to their task when it might have been easier to let the game slide by will be all the more pleasing. What Wednesday night will bring is another question. It might bring further action in the competition but this Clones comeback has restored those losing faith that the upcoming League may not be the bleak prospect that it looked the week before traipsing out of Cross.

Armagh – M McNeice; R McCaughley, E McVerry, M Murray; S Forker (0-1), C McKeever, A Forker; A Findon, N Grimley; R Grugan (0-2), Miceal McKenna (0-2), S Campbell (0-4); E Rafferty (0-3), A Murnin (0-1), G McParland (0-2).