McParland goals decide it

August 25, 2009

ESB All-Ireland MFC Semi-final

Armagh 2-10 Kerry 0-10

After a frustrating first half in which a host of goal chances were missed by Armagh, with Kerry goalkeeper Paul O’Sullivan the star of the show, Kerry led 0-7 to 0-4 and it looked as if the 1994 loss to the same opposition, at the same stage of the competition, was going to be repeated.

From the throw-in after the restart the impressive Andrew Murnin won possession and passed to Robbie Tasker who quickly offloaded to the foot of running Peter Carragher as he tore through the centre of the Kerry defence. As the Kerry defenders closed him down, the Silverbridge man parted with the ball to the Granemore man with the eye for goal, Gavin McParland and the first half invincibility of the Churchill’s Kingdoms net minder was breached with a low sidefooted effort.

Armagh never looked back from that three pointer, holding Kerry scoreless for the opening 13 minutes after the restart as they raced into a 2-6 to 0-7 lead. Granemore clubmate Rory Grugan added two pointed frees before the elusive trio of Tasker, McVerry and McParland combined to once again slice open the Kerry defence allowing McParland slot home goal number two to set Armagh well on the road to a final berth. The Orchard County bossed the second-half completely, outscoring Kerry 2-6 to 0-3in that period with the Kingdom managing just one point from play.

It was a complete contrast to the opening half in which Armagh displayed early nerves in the opening 10 minutes. Kerry were on the scoreboard inside 20 seconds as full-forward Kieran Hurley scored the games opening point. Three minutes the elusive Robbie Tasker levelled things with a good point before raiding half-back Greg Gibson swung over a long range effort for the Munster champions. The Armagh forwards were causing Kerry plenty of problems and McVerry brought the first of four outstanding saves from keeper O’Sullivan as he denied him a goal with a good stop.

A Grugan converted free following a foul on himself after McVerry showed great soccer skills along the end line restored parity. We got the first glimpse of the prowess from frees of Senior Kerry managers son Eanna O’Connor as he punished overcarrying by Ronan Finnegan with the first of four first half scores from frees thirteen minutes in as Kerry led 3-2. The class of Mullaghbawn man, McVerry, shone as he dummied a few Kerry defenders to slot over a marvellous individual score to tie up matters before O’Connor pointed Kerry back in front. Grugan seemed harshly penalised for overcarrying as Kerry turned defence into attack with Jack Sherwwod doubling the lead with the upright keeping the ball the right side of the posts. McParland did terrific work to hold onto possession out near the sideline before being fouled. A short free by McVerry saw him take the return as he jinked his way past a defender to land another classy score on 24 minutes to make it 5-4 to Kerry. An O’Connor free extended the lead before O’Sullivan denied Conor King with a terrific double save. Tasker knocked the ball down to King whose rasper came off the inside of the upright and hit the keeper heading back towards the net but he somehow managed to scoop the ball away to safety with Tasker coming in to bury it. The fourth O’Connor free left it 0-7 to 0-4 at the break.

As already detailed Armagh were level within seconds of the restart through McParlands first goal and three minutes later, Tasker found himself in a one-on-one with O’Sullivan, who once more diverted the shot off a post and clear. The inspired Kingdom ‘keeper also saved Grugan’s follow-up with his foot and he had now made four great saves. O’Connors pointed free left four between the teams with 10 minutes left on the clock as Armagh failed to increase their lead with a fisted

McVerry effort coming back off the woodwork with McParland hooking the rebound wide of the posts.  A lovely Grugan point a minute later, after Tasker provided the assist, made it 2-7 to 0-8 with eight minutes left. McVerry swivelled to take his third point following some sloppy Kerry defending and O’Connor tagged on his sixth pointed free in the 58th minute. It was all Armagh as Grugan effortlessly took his fifth point of the match – his second from play – to make it 2-9 to 0-9.

Kerry almost got in for a late goal but Armagh goalie Stephen O’Reilly matched anything his counterpart had done by pushing Niall O’Shea’s effort over the bar for a point. Three minutes of injury time were added and Armagh continued to flood forward in waves, with Grugan striking the closing point deep into stoppage time.

This was another terrific win for Armagh who stuck to their task and never let their heads drop. Despite missing the goal chances they had the confidence and ability to keep coming back for more until they finally made the breakthrough. Manager Paul McShane can be extremely proud of his players and his own performance. Some very astute positional changes after the opening few minutes were not long in snuffing out the early threat posed by Hurley. The workrate of his team with every man prepared to cover every inch of the Croke Park ground left Kerry with simply no answer to the Orchard boys who are deserving of their final appearance and have shown that they are the team to beat regardless of who wins next week’s semi between Mayo and Down.

Armagh – Stephen O’Reilly (Madden); Kealan Downey (Killeavy), Ronan Finnegan (Crossmaglen Rangers), Kevin Nugent (Maghery); Declan McKenna (Capt Silverbridge Harps), Niall Rowland (Culloville), James Morgan (Crossmaglen Rangers); Peter Carragher (Silverbridge Harps), James Donnelly (Killeavy); Rory Grugan (Ballymacnab 0-6), Andrew Murnin (St Paul’s 0-1) , Conor King (Killeavy) ; Robbie Tasker ( St Patrick’s 0-1 ), Eugene McVerry ( Mullaghbawn 0-2), Gavin McParland ( Ballymacnab 2-0). Subs – R Rafferty for E McVerry (62)

Kerry: P O’Sullivan; M Galvin, P Galvin, P O’Connor, G Gibson (0-1), J Coffey, M Brennan, S Carroll, D O’Sullivan, J Sherwood (0-1), D Kelly, I Galvin, N O’Shea (Capt) (0-1),  K Hurly (0-1), E O’Connor (0-6, 6 frees).

Subs: J O’Sullivan for D O’Sullivan (36), N Fitzgerald for P O’Connor (40), P Joy for I Galvin (40), M Thiemann for S Carroll (43), M Reen for K Hurley (52).

Referee: M Duffy (Sligo).