Murphy’s Law cost Armagh in Ballybofey

March 4, 2019

● Allianz National league Division 2 Round 5 Donegal 1-9 Armagh 0-11

Playing with the aid of a strong wind at MacCumhail Park, Ballybofey in the opening half Armagh suffered firstly from Murphy’s Law and then at the hands of 2012 All-Ireland winning captain Michael Murphy who was sprung from the bench for his first appearance of the year.

Armagh made one change to the team which started in the win over Tipperary with Ryan McShane replacing Aidan Forker with the Crossmaglen duo Jamie Clarke and Rian O Neill giving Kieran McGeeney’s Orchard team the perfect start going 2 points in front. On a torrid night with playing conditions worsening as the half progressed, the game turned physical, cynical and undisciplined. The stop start nature of the game enabled Donegal get a foothold in the game as they took the lead courtesy of 3 pointed frees from Michael Langan but before the lead point for the hosts the game was reduced to 14 a-side. A foul on Jemar Hall brought a heated reaction from a large number of players and when the dust had settled Monaghan referee Martin McNally brandished red cards to Armagh’s James Morgan and Donegal’s Jason McGee in the 18th minute. Stephen Sheridan offloaded to Stefan Campbell who slotted over the equalizer and Armagh quietened the boisterous home crowds welcome to Murphy’s introduction by taking a 2 point lead courtesy of the boot of Niall Grimley. The Madden player converted a free and followed up with the best score of the night from a sideline kick where he judged the swirling wind to perfection.

Armaghs Jamie Clarke try’s to turn Donegal’s Eoghan Ban Gallagher’

Following good work by Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Niall O’Donnell notched the hosts first point from play on 32 minutes which was immediately cancelled by a second for Campbell to put Armagh 6-4 ahead as 4 minutes of added on time was flashed up. Following a wide from Jamie Clarke his side’s fifth of the half Donegal swept downfield and as the half had gone for Armagh it was that man Murphy in the right place at the right time. The Glenswilly marksman expertly drilled the ball low into the Armagh net, past hopelessly exposed Armagh goalkeeper Blaine Hughes, on the stroke of half time, giving Donegal a 1-4 to 0-6 interval lead.

Having shipped back to back losses to Tipperary and Fermanagh Declan Bonner the Donegal manager, who had given a first start of the year to Leo McLoone, hit the jackpot with Murphy’s impact upon his introduction which had given his team the lead despite having played into the elements.

Armagh’s Connaire Mackin looking for a way out…

Armagh began the second half with Ryan Kennedy replacing McShane and 5 minutes into the half, just after Ciaran Thompson’s point doubled the lead, Armagh lost the influential Campbell who was replaced by Ethan Rafferty. O’Neill and Grimley replied with Armagh points to the brace of frees from Langan to keep the minimum between the teams 1-6 to 0-8 as the game entered the last quarter. On the hour Mark Murphy fired over the first of two in a row from play as a follow up to Langan’s fifth converted free which gave Donegal a 4 point cushion 1-9 to 0-8. Armagh introduced Jarly Óg Burns and Mark Shields for Hall and Vernon as a double substitution as they tried to get back into the game, which they did. Rian O’Neill chipped away at the lead with a brace of points from play. Armagh needed a goal for victory and in the final minute of added time a free from substitute Rafferty flew over instead of under the crossbar as Armagh came up a point short at the short whistle.

Armagh’s Jemar Hall gets away from Donegals Hugh McFadden

The fact that the second half ended in a draw 5 points each, shows how important the only goal of the game was, which was scored by Man of the Match Murphy who also came good with a timely two points from play in the second half.

Armagh:Blaine Hughes; James Morgan, Aaron McKay, Ryan McShane; Connaire Mackin, Greg McCabe, Paul Hughes; Stephen Sheridan, Niall Grimley (0-3), Jemar Hall, Rory Grugan, Charlie Vernon; Stefan Campbell (0-2), Rian O’Neill (0-4), Jamie Clarke (0-1).Subs:Ryan Kennedy for McShane (HT), Ethan Rafferty (0-1) for Campbell (39mins), Jarlath Og Burns for Vernon (63), Mark Shields for Hall (63), Joe McElroy for Mackin (69)

Donegal:Shaun Patton; Stephen McMenamin, Brendan McCole, Caolan Ward; Ryan McHugh, Leo McLoone, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Hugh McFadden, Caolan McGonagle; Ciaran Thompson (0-1), Jason McGee, Michael Langan (0-5), Jamie Brennan, Oisin Gallen, Niall O’Donnell (0-1).Subs:Michael Murphy (1-2) for Gallen (28mins), Eoin McHugh for Thompson (47), Paul Brennan for McMenamin (55)

Ref:Martin McNally (Monaghan)

Armagh’s Ethan Rafferty drives through Donegals Brendan McCole and Leo McLoone.

Allianz FL2 2019 P W D L Dif Pts

Meath 5 4 0 1 15 8

Fermanagh 5 3 2 0 8 8

Donegal 5 3 0 2 -2 6

Kildare 5 2 1 2 6 5

Armagh 5 1 2 2 -1 4

Clare 5 1 1 3 -3 3

Cork 5 1 1 3 -15 3

Tipperary 5 1 1 3 -8 3


A second defeat for Armagh on top of 2 draws now means given other results in the division that the Orchard County with 2 rounds of fixtures remaining will be involved in a battle to keep their Division Two status for next year.

Next up for Armagh are fellow promoted side Fermanagh who are flying at the minute undefeated after 5 rounds of fixture and poised for an unbelievable promotion to Division One, which is not bad for the team that was regarded as relegation certainties before a ball was kicked in Division Two a 0-12 to 0-9 home win was their third of the campaign to go with 2 draws as they sit in second spot behind Meath on scoring difference. Meath came back from the dead to beat Kildare 1-9 to 1-8 to take over top spot with 8 points as Kildare drop to fourth on 5 points. Donegal move up to third following their win over Armagh some 2 points adrift of the current top two. A first win for Cork 1-12 to 0-12 sees them join both Clare and Tipperary on the 3 point mark with the Munster trio breathing down Armagh’s neck

as the Orchard boys sit in fifth place on 4 points.

As I wrote a few weeks ago home comfort was going to be vital to the Armagh cause. With Fermanagh and Cork to visit the Orchard the need for points is for survival and the avoidance of relegation as it looks that the promotion boat has already set sail.