Thwarted Armagh must do it all again

April 11, 2016

Richard Bullick

Armagh must make the long journey to Cork all over again this Sunday in their quest for a place in the Lidl NFL Division One semi-finals.

The excessive storms which brought torrential rain to the deep south of the country resulted in an unplayable pitch at Eire Og and, with no alternative venue able to be found in Cork or even south Tipperary, the match was called off mid-morning yesterday ahead of the scheduled 1pm start.

The only silver lining to the wasted time, effort and expense associated with the longest journey Armagh have had in recent years and the inconvenience caused by the postponement is that the orangewomen now know exactly what they need to do to reach the knockout stages.

Although Kerry ran riot against already relegated Tyrone yesterday, Dublin’s late fightback in losing at home to Galway means Armagh can lose to Cork by two points or less and still progress.

If Cork beat Armagh in the rearranged game, five teams will finish joint second in the table behind Mayo on four wins apiece but two will miss out on a place in the semi-final line-up.

Kerry have a superior points difference to Armagh but if Ronan Clarke’s ladies lose by less than three to Cork the Orchard crew would benefit from an obscure regulation brought in by the LGFA this season.

Scorelines against the table’s bottom team are excluded from the for and against points columns for the purposes of placing sides which finish on the same number of points.

So Armagh’s 26 point win in Tyrone in their opening game won’t count – unless the Orchard county lose by three against Cork – and neither will Kerry’s 7-22 to 0-8 hammering of the Red Hands yesterday at Fitzgerald Stadium.

Armagh go into the Cork clash with their relevant points difference figure at minus two in contrast to Kerry’s minus five so Clarke’s side can lose by one or two points and stay ahead of the Kingdom girls.

If Armagh lose by three, the next tie-breaker is points difference with all scorelines counted so Kerry would go through having had the heavier victory over Tyrone.

A Galway win in Dublin by more than nine points would have brought last season’s table toppers and beaten finalists into the equation too and at one stage of the second half the visitors surprisingly led by 11 in Parnell Park but Gregory McGonigle’s side rallied a bit in eventually losing 4-12 to 1-14.

If Cork beat Armagh they will edge Dublin, who have finished the regular League phase with back to back defeats, into third place on applicable points difference but the two teams will still meet in the semis in a repeat of the last two All-Ireland finals unless the Rebelettes are beaten by the women in orange next Sunday.

In the other semi, scheduled for April 24 at neutral venues, either the Orchard outfit or Kerry will meet Mayo who ended their campaign with a 100 percent record by condemning Monaghan to a sixth defeat from seven fixtures this spring.

Newly promoted Armagh are now guaranteed to finish joint second in the table after a very encouraging campaign on their return to the top flight for the first time this decade but facing Cork away is a particularly tough finish even after last weekend’s famous first ever victory over Dublin.

Unfortunately for Armagh, reigning National League and All-Ireland champions Cork need a win themselves because of their sluggish start to the campaign after the disruptive departure at Christmas of their famed manager Eamonn Ryan to join the county’s men’s management team.

Uncharacteristically, Cork lost three of their first four fixtures but since then have hammered Monaghan and come into the Armagh match on the back of a very impressive victory in Galway.

Cork won 6-15 to 1-11 away to a Galway side who had triumphed by six points in the Athletic Grounds last time out so badly depleted Armagh were always likely to be up against it in spite of that wonderful win over the Dubs.

The champions are ominously motoring now and, with home advantage and needing the win themselves, will be regarded as firm favourites to maintain their record of never having lost to Armagh.

However Armagh have twice come within a single point of upsetting the most successful county in ladies gaelic history, most famously in the 2006 All Ireland final, and another near miss this time would effectively count as good as a victory in terms of the League table.

The last match between the teams resulted in a comprehensive victory for Cork in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final and Armagh are currently considerably short of full strength due to injury and other reasons.

At least the postponement means Armagh can welcome back Bernie Murray, who led her Orchard camogs to a one-point win over Dublin Seconds in their National League Division Three semi-final at Kinnegad yesterday.

Armagh camogie’s Player of the Decade made her first footballing appearance for the Orchard county as a sub in the closing stages of the win over Dublin and the Cullyhanna all-rounder’s return will bolster Clarke’s depleted panel.

After Dublin Seconds battled back to draw level with the Orchard camogs at 1-13 to 2-10, Murray’s fellow legend Colette McSorley sent over a superb winning free from the sideline in spite of a swirling wind.

As well as her huge experience, former All-Ireland Young Player of the Year McSorley, who teaches in St Colman’s College in Newry, has a first class degree in Mathematics and sure enough she perfectly calculated how much to allow for her free being blown off course!