All on the line

March 27, 2017

NFL Div 3 Armagh 1-12 v Antrim 0-13

A week is a long time in football as one can see from the results in the penultimate week of league action. Following on from their terrific display in Drogheda where they inflicted a comprehensive defeat on unbeaten table toppers Louth, relegation threatened Antrim were Saturday night visitors to the Athletic Grounds. Louth licking their wounds from a first defeat were heading to Thurles for a showdown with Tipperary who were level on points with them in the push for promotion.

The form book had it very easy with the Orchard County pushing hard for promotion and the Saffrons looking over their shoulders at the other end of the table, a home win was the banker and it was the same thing predicted for the Thurles match which would be a day later.

Armagh moved to the top of Division Three with a very hard fought 1-12 to 0-13 victory over a very spirited Antrim and were it not for a terrific penalty save by goalkeeper Blaine Hughes with 8 minutes left on the clock which denied Antrim parity at the time things could have been so different. After two impressive displays the old failings which were rife during the opening 3 league games all came back as a wasteful Armagh nearly paid the penalty but in the end did what they had to do- win the two points which keeps them on course for promotion.

Down in Thurles a tremendous second half from the Wee County transformed an 8-6 half-time deficit into a 16-12 victory and a return to the top of the table by a point from second placed Armagh. Louth entertain Sligo next weekend fresh in the knowledge that they have secured promotion regardless of the outcome of that match. So all eyes will be on the “winner takes all” meeting of Armagh and Tipperary at the Athletic Grounds. Whilst it is a must win game for Tipperary a drawn game will give Armagh promotion and a place in the league final against Louth at Croke Park. We are only at the end of March and a match of championship importance and intensity is already upon us. Both counties do not want another year in Division Three so there is everything to play for on Sunday.

On Saturday night it was the visitors who made the better start opening with a brace from top scorer CJ McGourty sandwiched in-between was Armagh’s opener from Niall Grimley but a Paddy McBride point made it 3-1. A second opening goal in successive matches from Ciaran McKeever put Armagh ahead. The low scoring half concluded with 2 more McGourty points and a second for McBride with replies from McKeever and Gavin McParland leaving it level 1-3 to 0-6 at the short whistle.

The second half started with Aaron McKay nudging the hosts ahead by McGourty levelled once more. Rory Grugan and McParland answered a Conor Murray point before McGourty on 40 minutes restored parity 1-6 to 0-9. Armagh hit a purple patch in terms of scoring inspired by a brace from full back Vernon, Forker, Clarke and Duffy put Armagh 1-11 to 0-9 ahead. Bradley and McGurty points left a green flag between them before Hughes denied the umpire the opportunity to raise that said same flag. McGourty’s ninth point of the night was to be Antrim’s last as Anto Duffy and Oisin O’Neill completed the scoring for a 1-12 to 0-13 victory.

Armagh – B Hughes; J Morgan, C Vernon (0-2), P Hughes; N Rowland, B Donaghy, A McKay (0-1); S Sheridan (0-1), B Crealey; N Grimley (0-1), C McKeever (1-1), R Grugan (0-1); G McParland (0-2), S Campbell, J Clarke (0-1). Subs: A Forker (0-1) for B Crealey, C O’Hanlon for N Grimley, A Duffy (0-1) for S Campbell, O O’Neill for C McKeever, S Heffron for N Rowland, A Findon for A Forker (BC).

Antrim – C Kerr; C Hamill, P Gallagher, P Healy; P McBride (0-2), D Lynch, P McAleer; J Dowling, K Niblock; S Beatty, R McCann, M Fitzpatrick; CJ McGourty (0-9, 6f, 1’45), C Murray (0-1), B Bradley (0-1). Subs: N Delargy for R McCann, S McVeigh for J Dowling, C Small for D Lynch.

Referee – N Cullen.