Brilliant Brogan turns over Armagh

July 20, 2010

QUA.Round 3 Dublin 0-14 ARMAGH 0-11Going into this third round qualifier between Dublin and Armagh at Croke Park there was a widely held belief that the Orchard County were a one man band in Stevie McDonnell, coming out of it there is little doubt that Dublin are a one trick pony in the shape of Bernard Brogan. The St Oliver Plunketts/ Eoghan Ruadh player tormented the Armagh defence from start to finish and ended up with a personal tally of 0-9 (4 frees) to single handedly put paid to Armagh’s 2010 championship aspirations.

Armagh will be kicking themselves at having let this one get away as they were in the ascendency in the opening half where they held a 4 point lead,  in the 62nd minute Brian Mallon missed an open goal with his effort being cleared off the line by corner back Philip McMahon and the usually reliable McDonnell was off target from distance with some scoreable frees but the biggest sin of all throughout the whole match was the amount of turnover ball that Armagh lost time and time again both defensively and offensively which Dublin especially Brogan, capatalised on to the full.

I sincerely hope that the paltry attendance of 26,000 is a reflection on the economic climate and the counter attraction of live TV coverage than the apathy shown by supporters non attendance as these two developing teams deserve better from their followers. While Saturday’s match was far from a classic we were treated to 70 minutes of honest toil where each teams limitations were clearly evident. Rival managers Pat Gilroy and Paddy O’Rourke cannot find any fault with the wholesome commitment of their developing charges to be commended rather than be admonished.

Armagh brought in Finnian Moriarty, Kieran Toner and Brian Mallon to the starting line up with Fermanagh starters Kevin Dyas, Joe Feeney and Francis Hanratty making way. Dublin made late changes to their forward division with Bryan Cullen and Barry Cahill replacing Paul Flynn and Kevin McManamon.

For the third qualifying game in a row involving Armagh there was a goal chance inside the opening minute. This one though fell to Dublin’s Alan Brogan who shot across the goal harmlessly wide (their second of the game) when in one on one with Paul Hearty who had an excellent match between the sticks. A high ball from Gareth Swift was fumbled clear by the Dublin defence at the expense of a “45” in Armagh’s first attack with Stevie McDonnell wide from the kick. The games opening score arrived on 7 minutes courtesy of team captain Ciaran McKeever (who led by example all day with a terrific performance, maybe he should have been used to man mark Brogan by management) who ended a three man move with a point and was followed by a second from Stevie from a free following an illegal handpass from Michael Dara MacAuley. A sweeping 5 man Dublin move ended with Brogan opening his account with a point. which was cancelled out by an Aaron Kernan free following a foul on Jamie Clarke. The usually reliable Paul Duffy lost the ball allowing the Brogan brothers combine for a point for Bernard 3-2 on fourteen minutes. Eight minutes went by perforated by a few wides to each side before the next score arrived from Jamie Clarke who reacted first to the break ball to score.. Brian Mallon did a one two with Aaron Kernan before making it 5-2 with a great point followed immediately by a better one from Malachy Mackin and Armagh were 4 in front with 10 minutes to the short whistle.

Crucially from then to the close of the half Armagh allowed Dublin back into the game to telling effect. Dublin fired a brace of wides before Brogan converted a free on the half hour following a foul on Cullen by Swift. Charlie Vernon dispossessed and Corkery finds Brogan who cuts the deficit to 6-4 and again Brogan combined with Corkery after Vincie Martin lost possession and the lead was down to the minimum in added on time.  Corkery pulled on a loose ball near the square which was foot blocked out for a “45”. Up stepped Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton to dissect the posts for the equalizer as Armagh introduced Joe Feeney for the injured Kieran Toner just before referee Joe McQuillan (Cavan) who had a good match blew the short whistle. The momentum had certainly swung in favour of the Dubs who must have been lifted to go in level despite Armagh dominating first half possession. For the first time in a long time Armagh had 5 of their 6 starting forwards on the scoresheet in the opening half.

Within 20 seconds of the restart Moriarty picked up a yellow for a tug on centre half back Gerard Brennan as he came through the middle allowing Brogan score his sixth of the afternoon and more significantly a first time lead for Dublin who would not be headed for the remainder of the match. Brian Mallon, Feeney, Vernon and Swift all handled the leather before Stevie tied things at 7 all. Kevin Nolan came raiding from the back offloaded to Corkery who tried to slide the ball past Hearty who stuck out a foot and killed the pace of the ball which was still heading goalwards until McKeever cleared off the line. The teams traded wides with Clarke missing a good chance for Armagh and with Dublin seeking Brogan at every opportunity he did not let them down on 43 minutes as he regained the lead with his only second half point from play. Swift was pulled for overcarrying Dublin took the free from the wrong place, Vernon won the throw up but wasted it with a poor wide.

Dublin substitute Eamon Fennell ballooned a high ball forward which broke for Kevin McManemon who doubled the Dubs lead and moments later the point scorer offloaded to corner backMcMahon who pointed to put a goal between the sides with 20 minutes left on the clock. Some six minutes later Armagh had drawn level courtesy of three points from Stevie two from frees sandwiched in between was one from play as he beat keeper Cluxton to the punch under a Swift delivery. Armagh replaced Mackin with James Lavery as the Dubs also made a double substitution Paul Flynn for Henry and Darren Magee for McConnell. A foul by Moriarty on Brogan allowed Dublin regain the lead before the Wolfe Tone defender fired a bad wide for Armagh as the hour mark passed.

Perhaps the games defining moment came next when Clarke using great vision spotted the unmarked Brian Mallon who beat the keeper only to see McMahon doing  his defensive duties to the tee cleared off the line at the expense of a “45”. Worse still for Armagh was the wide that followed from Stevie as Dublin scored from their next attack through Flynn who capatalised on the lost ball by Donaghy. Brogan pointed a free to make it 13-10 with 4 minutes remaining. Joe Feeney rifled over an Armagh point as they introduced Tony Kernan and Francis Hanratty for Vernon and Brian Mallon. Hearty denied Alan Brogan with a good save before Stevie was wide from a free following a foul on Clarke.

In added time a foul on Hanratty saw a square ball given from the delivery from Aaron Kernan. Dublin grabbed the insurance point as Brogan turned provider to their second best player of the afternoon midfielder Ross McConnell who pointed to leave it 14-11 at full time.

No classic encounter with supporters of both teams in agreement that neither of the teams would have made any more progress. Not so as every step further a team takes that is in the process of rebbuilding is a positive and learning one. One must not forget for Paddy O’Rourke’s charges this was the first championship match of 2010 against non-Ulster opposition and despite all the giveaway ball Armagh were well capable of winning the match had the rub of the green gone their way. This was Armagh’s round dozen in terms of qualifier games and it was their fourth loss with Galway, Derry and Monaghan their other conquerors.

The first year in charge for Armagh’s Paddy O’Rourke has come to an end but for me there are more positives than negatives to be taken from his first year at the helm. The final elimination at the hands of Dublin will hurt as one cannot legislate for the amount of turnover ball Armagh lost and yet still came within a whisker of progress to the All-Ireland quarter finals. It is very hard to get it all right at the first time of asking. Armagh youngsters will gain from their experiences and have a full division one league campaign to look forward to before the next championship. A league title and promotion are positive stepping stones upon which to build for the second term of office where even  more will be expected from  the Down native to deliver for the Orchard faithful who are getting a lot thinner on the ground in terms of match attendance.

Armagh P. Hearty; A Mallon; B Donaghy; V. Mackin; P. Duffy; C. McKeever (0-1); F. Moriarity; C. Vernon; K. Toner; M. Mackin (0-1); A. Kernan (0-1); G. Swift; B. Mallon (0-1); S. McDonnell (0-5); J. Clarke (0-1).

Subs – J. Feeney (0-1) for Toner; J. Lavetry for Mackin; T Kernan for B. Mallon; F. Hanratty for Vernon.

Dublin S. Cluxton (0-1); M. Fitzsimons; R. O’Carroll; P. McMahon 0-1), K. Nolan; G. Brennan; D. Henry; M. D MacAuley; R. McConnell; B. Cullen; A. Brogan; N. Corkery; B. Brogan (0-9); E. O’Gara; B. Cahill

Subs used: K McManamon (0-1) for O’Gara, E Fennell (0-1) for Corkery, P Flynn (0-1) for Henry, D Magee for McConnell, P Andrews for Cullen