Rock Bottom

March 7, 2016

Allianz National Football League Div Two Cavan 3-18 Armagh 0-10

Armagh’s Division Two National League campaign has literally hit rock bottom following a 17 point humiliation at Kingspan Breffni Park against upcoming Ulster Championship opponents Cavan on May 29. The Breffni boys triumphed 3-18 to 0-10 with the margin of victory condemning Armagh to the foot of the table on scoring difference from Laois with whom they share the relegation places with just 2 points apiece at present and 3 games remaining.

This league encounter with Cavan was the second meeting of the teams this year after Cavan had won their McKenna Cup meeting at Crossmaglen 2-8 to 0-11. Armagh had 5 players to Cavan’s 6 who began that match in Cross but the telling difference this time round was that 4 of the Cavan starting newcomers contributed 2-13 to the scoreboard on Saturday night in contrast to 3 points from their counterparts on the Armagh side. In a direct comparison the difference in progression football wise of the teams from that January game was like night and day.

Kieran McGeeney made two changes to his starting 15 in the win over Fermanagh as Stephen Sheridan and Tony Kernan replaced Stefan Forker and Andy Murnin. Armagh raced into a 3 point lead inside 5 minutes as Ciaran O’Hanlon, Stephen Sheridan and Micheal McKenna all pointed from play. It was a former player whom the Armagh manager had under his wing at Kildare, Seanie Johnston who came back to haunt him as he started the home revival with a sixth minute goal and also contributed 4 first half points to help Cavan to a 1-11 to 0-5 advantage at half-time. Johnston scrambled home the opening goal following good work by Argue and Givney. Cavan added 8 unanswered points before Stefan Campbell broke a 25 minute barren scoring spell for the visitors with his first of two pointed frees only for Cavan to reel off 3 more before the short whistle.

First half substitute Ethan Rafferty commenced an Armagh fightback with a long range free followed by a second point from play, only for his involvement to be curtailed by a very harsh Black card. Cavan followed up Rafferty’s dismissal by scoring 1-3 in a 7 minute blitz as Givney palmed the ball to the net following great work by Martin Reilly which effectively doused any flickering embers of Armagh resistance. Gearoid McKiernan matched Johnston’s haul of 1-5 scoring his side’s third goal in the 59th minute. A third Campbell free, and two from substitute Gavin McParland, one from play and one from a free completed the Armagh scoring. Cavan cruised to victory to go up to third in the table with an away game with Fermanagh up next followed by two home matches with Laois and Galway. Promotion prospects have opened up for Terry Hyland’s men.

Armagh are at home to Galway next Sunday. The Westerners drew at home with Meath this week and sit on 5 points from their four games. With an away game to Tyrone the penultimate game followed by a home game, with Derry, Armagh will definitely need something from Saturday night’s game otherwise a quick return to Division Three will be very much on the cards.

Armagh – M McNeice; A Mallon, C Vernon, S Connell; M Shields, S Heffron, S Sheridan (0-1); A Findon, S Campbell (0-3f); N Grimley, A Forker, T Kernan; C Watters, C O’Hanlon (0-1), M McKenna (0-1). Subs: E Rafferty (0-2, 1f) for C Watters, A Murnin for N Grimley, J McElroy for E Rafferty (BC), N McConville for A Forker, G McParland (0-2, 1f) for T Kernan, J Hall for C O’Hanlon.

Cavan – R Galligan; P Faulkner (0-1), K Clarke, J McLoughlin (0-2); C Brady, C Moynagh, K Brady; T Corr, L Buchanan; D McVeety (0-1), G McKiernan (1-5, 0-3f), M Reilly (0-1); D Givney (1-1), M Argue (0-2), S Johnston (1-5, 0-2f). Subs: N Murray for D McVeety (BC), R Dunne for L Buchanan, P O’Connor for S Johnston, C Mackey for R Dunne (BC), J Hayes for J McLoughlin, B Sankey for P Faulkner.

Referee – M Deegan.