Rebels without a cause

March 25, 2019

 ● Allianz National league Division 2 round 7 Armagh 1-14 Cork 3-8

Cork’s one point victory over Armagh at the Athletic Grounds was their only consolation, as it did not prevent what has to be the lowest point in the Rebels proud footballing history, relegation to Division Three for the very first time. Cork had fought back to take a late lead after Armagh had drawn level but news after the final whistle that Clare had bagged 1-2 in added time against Tipperary to snatch victory from defeat meant that Cork joined Tipperary in the third tier for next year.

In the opening quarter against Armagh Cork did not look like “rebels without a cause” as they raced into a 7 point lead after Armagh had opened the scoring through Jarlath óg Burns. A quick fire brace of goals 5 minutes apart from Brian Hurley, sandwiched in between were points from Eoghan Mc Sweeney and John O’Rourke left the home team and supporters who had nothing on the line except pride, shell shocked. A Rory Grugan converted free doubled the hosts score but was immediately cancelled by a minor from the boot of midfielder Killian O’Connor. One sensed that it might not be Armagh’s day when Cork goalkeeper Mark White denied Aidan Forker a goal with a fingertip save at the expense of a point. The 8 point lead was restored as Castlehaven’s Mark Collins added point number five immediately replied to by Grugan only for a free from Collins to leave it 2-6 to 0-4 just before the half hour mark. Jamar Hall got on the scoresheet for Armagh as Jamie Clarke replaced Stefan Campbell in attack. A Grugan free left just the 2 Hurley goals between the sides at the interval 2-6 to 0-6 but Armagh lost the services of Niall Grimley to a Black card just prior to the short whistle.

Armagh’s Jamie Clarke under pressure from Cork’s Kevin Crowley.

Rory Grugan via a free opened the second half scoring with Rian O’Neill making an immediate impact after coming on for Charlie Vernon by converting a free as back on the field of play Niall Grimley marked his return with a point and suddenly the Cork lead was reduced to a green flag. Thirteen minutes into the half Mark Collins shot the visitors opening point as Armagh brought in James Morgan for Paul Hughes and having halved the deficit through a Grugan free and a converted O’Neill “mark” Aidan Nugent replaced his clubmate Pearse Casey. Joe McElroy on the hour cut the lead to the minimum 0-12 to 2-7 with an Armagh point but just as it looked like Armagh were going to push on they were hit with a third goal as half-back Kevin Crowley netted. Straight from the kick-out Armagh broke downfield and were awarded a penalty which was rammed home by Jamie Clarke to put the match right back in the boiling pot. When Grugan landed a 66th minute leveller from a free, the writing looked on the wall for Cork.

But to their credit Cork who were never headed since the fourth minute responded to the goaled penalty in style as substitutes Cian Kiely and Damian Gore made a very telling impact as they landed back to back points inside a minute to give the rebels a fighting chance of survival. With 5 minutes of added time posted up Armagh’s hopes were hit by a Black card for Ethan Rafferty and all the home side could muster was a converted O’Neill free which closed out the scoring.

Scorers-Armagh; Rory Grugan (0-6), Jamie Clarke (1-0), Rian O’Neill (0-3) Jarly óg Burns (0-1), Aidan Forker (0-1), Jamar Hall (0-1), Niall Grimley (0-1), Joe McElroy (0-1) Cork; Brian Hurley (2-0), Kevin Crowley (1-0), Mark Collins (0-3) , Eoghan McSweeney (0-2), Cian Kiely (0-1) and Damian Gore (0-1)

Armagh finished their league campaign with their third loss to go along with 2 draws and 2 wins and a haul of 6 points just one above Cork who were relegated on scoring difference as they were level on points with Clare. Tipperary finished bottom on 3 points picked up following a home win over Donegal and a home draw with Fermanagh. The Ernesiders followed up their first defeat to Armagh with a second away to Meath who won Division Two with 6 wins and one loss. Donegal will join Meath in the Division Two League final next weekend following their fifth win at home to Kildare in their last match.

Armagh’s Rory Grugan and Cork’s Cian Kiely.

Whilst the league campaign could have been much better from an Armagh point of view given the way some matches played out I thing consolidating their position in Division Two will be better in the long run rather than promotion to the top flight. It is worth noting that both Cavan and Roscommon were relegated from Division One following last years promotion.

The next focus for Armagh is Down in the Ulster championship on Sunday May 19. Down have received an early setback in their preparations as they failed to gain promotion out of Division Three of the league. But all known sennce of form evaporates when it comes to a championship clash with your traditional arch-enemy and number one rival.

Allianz FL2 2019 P W D L Dif Pts

Meath 7 6 0 1 27 12

Donegal 7 5 0 2 18 10

Fermanagh 7 3 2 2 -5 8

Kildare 7 3 1 3 6 7

Armagh 7 2 2 3 4 6

Clare 7 2 1 4 -6 5

Cork 7 2 1 4 -21 5

Tipperary 7 1 1 5 -11 3