Long way off what was expected

February 20, 2017

NFL – Armagh v Longford

As Armagh head to Longford to play their third league game, things are a long way off what they were expected to be in terms of league positions. Promotion favourites Armagh have only pointless Antrim below them in the league standings as the Orchard County, despite being the best side in both of their games to date, have only one league point to show for their efforts.

Armagh should be sitting with full points from the away game at Sligo and the home game with Laois were it not for some shocking lapses in the final 10 minutes of both games that saw substantial leads tossed away, that led to a draw and a defeat.

Down the years the one thing you could nearly always depend on from Armagh is that they would be sound defensively, with their inability to take their scoring chances being their main downfall. Two games into this Division Three league campaign Armagh’s defence has conceded 3-25, with in my opinion 2-7 of those scores coming directly from poor kick-outs. Whilst still not prolific enough in front of goals, given the amount of chances the forwards create, 2-27 scored, in two games should be enough to give you two victories. Alas,  the tale of two penalties, one in each game, left Armagh with a hefty price to pay for their indiscretions.

There is no doubt that team manager Kieran McGeeney has had sleepless nights following those two games but a manager is helpless when it comes down to individual errors on the field, sloppy passes, wrong options by players and the rub of the green going against you at crucial times in games.

Did Armagh go too defensive and try to hold onto the leads they had or did they lack the killer touch as a team that is only getting to gel with each other has to endure before they can learn from their mistakes. Why did the direct ball to Jamie Clarke, which had led to 5 second half points dry up, 4 forwards replaced and no defensive changes as Laois piled on the pressure.

The frustrating thing for supporters is that they have seen their team play some excellent attacking football which put them in winning positions but then had to endure the same failings defensively which proved very costly. Although the defence from the Sligo game showed two changes, there were no lessons from that Sligo game learned, as the same mistakes were repeated.

All is not yet lost in terms of promotion and fashioning a winning team, as there are still 5 games yet to be played and only 2 teams are more than one point ahead of Armagh in the standings at present. Sligo built on their gift point against Armagh by going to Tipperary and winning to sit on 3 points. Sunday’s opponents Longford, following an opening day 1-12 to 0-10 win over Offaly fell to a defeat in Drogheda against Louth who are the only side to start with two wins.

Pearse Park is never an easy place to come away from with a victory but it is a must from an Armagh point of view, as any more dropped points will definitely signal the end of any promotion dreams. The break came at a good time for Armagh following those two poor results and there will be players returning to the fold filled with confidence following their successes at college level.

Supporters are entitled to ask questions and be peeved at the way things have gone to date but they will be a vital ingredient in getting the team back on track. The travelling hoards that went to Sligo will once again need to be on the road to Longford as in every situation one has to weigh up whether the glass is half full or half empty. The only two negatives to date have been the end results, one was decided by the referee the other by naivety and a lack of experience to get over the finish line. The table will have a different complexion come Sunday evening as Armagh get back on track with a win.