Crushed orange quenches thirst

March 23, 2010

N.F.L Div. Two DOWN 1-13 ARMAGH 1-06

Supporters were still piling into a well appointed Pairc Esler when the Red and Black were celebrating a sensational start with a Benny Coulter goal after forty seconds. Shortly before the throw-in the Down fans had given their previous manager Paddy O’Rourke a great homecoming reception but once fussy referee Martin Sludden of Tyrone began proceedings the cordiality stopped and Down got right down to the business in hand.

Down were out of the traps that fast they passed the hare as they tagged on 5 unanswered points following the Coulter goal following a terrible error between goalkeeper Philip McEvoy and Andy Mallon. The Dromintee custodian failed to deal with a cross goal kick from Daniel Hughes and collided with his defender allowing a very sharp lean looking Coulter fist to an empty net. That aforementioned Down duo caused the Armagh defence all sorts of problems all night. The early error from McEvoy unsettled him for the remainder of the game as a few Down points dropped onto the crossbar and over with the keeper looking decidedly uneasy.

With Armagh behaving like rabbits caugh in the glare of headlights Mark Poland, in for the named Paul McCumiskey from the start grabbed the game’s first point followed by like scores from Martin Clarke (free), Coulter, a beauty from Martin Clarke and a fifth from midfielder Ambrose Rogers. Down, through John Clarke, recorded the first wide from a free that earned Finnian Moriarty a yellow card that would have further consequences.

A first sorte inside the Down 21 yard line by the visitors yielded huge dividends. The attacking corner back Paul Duffy parted with the ball to Stefan Forker who was brought down for a penalty. Up stepped Stevie from Killeavy who sent goalkeeper Declan Alder the wrong way and Armagh were up and running albeit after 12 minutes. Six minutes later McDonnell, from a free, left it 1-5 to 1-1 as Martin Clarke left the field injured replaced by Conor Maginn just after Finnian Moriarty had split the posts with his teams second point. Armagh now in the ascendency saw their dominance quelled by Daniel Hughes placing John Clarke for the first Down score for some 17 minutes. The roaming Duffy popped up in attack to give Stevie the chance to get his third score of the half.

On the half hour the Kernan brothers Paul and Aaron combined to let Gareth Swift in to make it a 2 point match 1-6 to 1-4. With two minutes to the short whistle the referee was summoned by his linesman and a second yellow for Moriarty left Armagh down to 14. The Tyrone official further incenced the orange brigade by giving a harsh free for a touch on the ground by Toner which allowed John Clarke with the easy task of putting a goal between the teams. The last action of the half saw McDonnell level up the wide count at 4 all by missing from a “45” as Armagh were in the hunt 1-7 to 1-4 in arrears.

Armagh re-jigged from the re-start with Malachy Mackin coming in at centre forward in place of Stefan Forker allowing Aaron Kernan back to his defensive position. As quick as the opening goal in this game arrived the opening score of the second half, an Armagh point was even quicker. Mackin was involved immediately linking with Duffy who put McDonnell in for a tap over to reduce the deficit to two and it was game on time as the vocals in the crowd upped a decible or two. Little did anyone think that this would be the only score Armagh would manage for the next 36 minutes until Swift completed the night’s scoring with his second point of the match to leave the final score 1-13 to 1-06. In bewteen those two Armagh scores Down added six to their tally as they ran out very comfortable, convincing winners. Substiute Maginn bounced one off the crossbar and over before another sub to impress Chris Lavery set Ambrose Rodgers up for the second Down point of the half following a scoreless 10 minutes. Lavery was then fouled by Donaghy leaving Poland to claim his second point 1-10 to 1-05 and his third followed following a foul on Coulter. Rogers knocked over a good long range free before Daniel Hughes capped a good outing with his team’s last score of the game.

In the lead up to this game a lot of emphasis was put on performance rather than the result but in the wake of the way it turned out the result and lack of performance from the visitors has to be a worry. This was the first real examination Armagh faced in the league and they let themselves and above all their manager down in what was always going to be an emotional evening for him. Down were always going to be a handful at home, thirsty and hungry to end a 10 year sequence of losses in league and championship to their main rivals. The comfort with which the table toppers kept their unbeaten tag will have taken them by surprise too BUT CRUSHED ORANGES WILL CERTAINLY QUENCH THEIR 10 YEAR THIRST.

From the outset the Armagh performance was too poor to envisage given what had gone before in the league. A collective collapse in all sectors in the second half just cannot be put down to the numbers game, allthough it did allow Down to double up on Stevie and eliminate the main scoring threat. As a disappointed Armagh manager put it “Down get a lot of men behind the ball and having the extra man made it even more difficult. I got a great reception and it’s a pity for the large crowd that it was not a bit closer. I have a good bunch of lads who are a lot better than they showed tonight. It’s back to the drawing board and I am glad the next match is only a week away”