First League Defeat for Armagh

February 12, 2019

 ● Allianz National league Division 2 Round 3 – Meath 2-13 Armagh 0-13

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney replaced the suspended Jamie Clarke (whose appeal against his sending off was turned down earlier in the week) with Ryan McShane in the only alteration to the team that started against Clare.

Rival manager Andy McEntee named the same starting 15 which lost out to Donegal but both made late changes to their listed teams for this crucial Round 3 match at Pairc Tailteann, Navan. Ryan Kennedy replaced Charlie Vernon for the Orchard with Cillian O’Sullivan coming in for half-forward Ethan Devine for the home team.

The story of the game revolved around the use of the strong wind which assisted Meath in the opening half, helping them into a 1-9 to 0-3 lead, but with Armagh right back in the match 0-12 to 1-10 in arrears with 15 minutes plus added time to be played the wind abated and Meath got on top outscoring Armagh 1-3 to a point to end up flattering victors 2-13 to 0-13.

For the third league match in a row Armagh have been found wanting at the death and have now joined Cork in the two relegation places following a weekend of shock results.

On Saturday night Fermanagh disposed of Kildare 0-8 to 0-6 to maintain their unbeaten start to Division 2 life despite recording scores of 0-8, 2-5 and 0-8. Donegal fell to their first defeat away to Tipperary 3-9 to 0-13, Clare hammered Cork 3-13 to 1-10 which leaves the league table heading into the break tightly bunched up with only 3 points between top and bottom. Donegal, Fermanagh and Meath all have 4 points, Clare, Kildare and Tipp each have 3 points, Armagh are on 2 points with Cork rock bottom with 1 point.

Armagh face a first home game on Sunday February 24th when Tipperary are at the Athletic Grounds, Fermanagh head to Donegal, Clare go to Newbridge all on the same Sunday afternoon, after Meath had visited Cork on the Saturday night. Promotion and relegation is still the possibility for all 8 teams in Division Two after 3 rounds of fixtures.

Armaghs Rian O Neill under pressure from Meaths Seamus Lavin and James McEntee

Meath raced into a 4 point lead in as many minutes as the opening score from Shane McEntee was followed by points from Michael Newman (free), James McEntee and Darragh Campion. The opening quarter of an hour was littered with loose misplaced passes, players caught in possession and general poor play. Midfielder Stephen Sheridan opened the Armagh account on 14 minutes, following good work by Aidan Forker, with the visitors having withstood the early onslaught from their opponents. Just as Armagh were finding their feet and thought that they had denied their hosts a goal opportunity, Clare referee Rory Hickey, spread his hands for a penalty and Newman gave goalkeeper no chance from the spot kick on 20 minutes, immediately followed by a Newman point. The lead was extended to 8 points with the best score of the half coming from Killian O’Reilly. Rory Grugan played a 1-2 with Forker before popping over a second point for Armagh which was quickly cancelled out by a second minor from Campion. Rian O’Neill and Ben Brennan traded pointed frees to give the wind assisted Royals a commanding 1-9 to 0-3 interval lead.

Wind assisted Armagh began the second half as Meath began the first with 4 unanswered points from Stefan Campbell, Grugan (2) and O’Neill before a rare Meath foray forward enabled Newman stem the flow of Orchard points with one from a free to make it 1-10 to 0-7. Still a rejuvenated Armagh continued to pressurize their hosts bagging another 5 points without reply to cut the deficit to the minimum. Ryan McShane got on the scoresheet followed by a brace from O’Neill and one from Grugan leaving a fisted point from Campbell on 56 minutes, cutting the deficit to the minimum 0-12 to 1-10. Towering full forward Newman steadied the home ship adding two points to take his personal tally to 1-6 and when Thomas O’Reilly scored their third point in a 4 minute spell Meath had weathered the Armagh fightback as they opened up a 1-13 to 0-12 lead.

Armaghs Rory Grugan and Meaths Conor McGill

Armagh had introduced Joe McIlroy for Campbell, Jarly Og Burns for Hall, Paul Hughes for Kennedy, Aidan Nugent for McShane over the course of the second half but it was one of Meath’s sextet of second half subs Ethan Devine who palmed into an empty net to seal the win for the home team. Rian O’Neill in the fourth minuted of added time completed the scoring with his fifth point of the afternoon.

As already mentioned Armagh manager McGeeney will be looking to address his teams finishes to all 3 league games. The physical demands and exertions in trying to haul back a 9 point deficit without a goal, really took a lot out of Armagh who were exposed in the end by coming searching for an equalizer but ultimately paid the price for a poor first half showing.

The first proper “home game” of the campaign in a fortnight is vital to get Armagh back into the promotion hunt, indeed the comfort of home is going to be vital to how the Orchard will finish in Division Two as following a trip to Ballybofey Armagh have Fermanagh and Cork in Armagh.

Armagh: Blaine Hughes; Mark Shields, Aaron McKay, James Morgan; Aidan Forker, Greg McCabe, Connaire Mackin; Stephen Sheridan (0-1), Niall Grimley; Jemar Hall, Rory Grugan (0-4), Ryan McShane (0-2); Stefan Campbell (0-2), Rian O’Neill (0-4), Ryan Kennedy. Subs: Joe McElroy for Stefan Campbell (55mins), Paul Hughes for Ryan Kennedy (60), Aidan Nugent for Ryan McShane (65), Jarly Og Burns for Jemar Hall (50)

Meath: Andrew Colgan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Ronan Ryan; James McEntee (0-1), Donal Keogan, Niall Kane; Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee (0-1); Cillian O’Sullivan (0-1), Ben Brennan (0-1), Darragh Campion (0-2); Bryan McMahon, Michael Newman (1-6), Thomas O’Reilly (0-1). Subs: Graham Reilly for Ben Brennan (53mins), Eoin Lynch for Niall Kane (53), Mickey Burke for Cillian O’Sullivan (62), Ethan Devine (1-0) for Bryan McMahon (64), Gavin McCoy for Ronan Ryan (64), Eoin Lynch for Niall Kane, (58)

Ref: Rory Hickey (Clare).