Sloppy goals prove costly

January 14, 2013

Dr. McKenna Cup Armagh 1-11 Cavan 3-09

The concession of 3 very sloppy goals ultimately proved very costly for a very experimental Armagh side in their opening game of the year, in the Dr. McKenna Cup at home to Cavan in the Athletic Grounds.

In his first game in charge manager Paul Grimley gave 7 players their first call up and it would have been more but for the late withdrawals of defenders Gary McCooey and Stephen Finnegan who were replaced by the experienced duo of Ciaran McKeever and Finian Moriarty. While the teams in action in this game will bear little resemblance to the ones that will take the field in 18 weeks time in the Preliminary Round of the Ulster Championship, it is the Armagh management who will have gotten a better insight into how the Breffni men are going to play than their Cavan counterparts. Deploying 13 men behind the ball using the elusive full forward Martin Dunne and his corner partner Niall McDermott as their forward outlets they channelled the ball through Cian Mackey. Another one to watch out for was Cavan midfielder Gearoid McKieran who weighed in with 4 magnificent points from play.

Cavan with an opening defeat to Down under their belts, raced into an early 5 point lead with their first goal on 8 minutes coming from Tomas Corr. Niall McConville marked his debut with a point to open the Armagh account before 2 pooints from the impressive Stefan Forker at full forward left Armagh 1-02 to 0-3 in arrears after a quarter of an hour as the home side began to find their feet. An Armagh defensive mix up saw the ball ricochet to the unmarked Dunne and he displayed great calm and composure to slot the ball past a helpless Niall Geoghan. The goal was quickly followed by a McDermott converted free and the home side were 6 points in arrears and had withdrawn Rowland and Carville replaced by Anto Duffy and Caolan Rafferty. Stefan Forker and McKieran traded points before McKeever and McVerry interchanged with the ball setting up McParland for a well worked and taken goal 2-4 to 1-4. A fourth Stefan Forker point of the opening half had Armagh right back into contention with just 2 points between the teams as McVerry picks up a yellow that could have been a red for a rash challenge. Having had the first score of the half through a free Cavan also had the last in the same manner as McDermott converted to leave it 2-5 to 1-5 at the short whistle.

Early second half points from Caolan Rafferty and Stefan Forker made it a one point game but playing a captain’s part McKiernan replied with a white flag for Cavan to double their advantage. Impressive Armagh midfielder, who will undoubtedly come on from the experience, pointed to make it 1-8 to 2-6. Armagh defense were sucker punched by a quickly taken Cavan free which found Dunne and having his first goal attempt saved he was on hand to finish the loose ball to the net for the killer third goal which knocked the stuffing out of the Armagh revival.

With a new 5 point lead Cavan set up stall to hold on to what they had, closing ranks to deny Armagh any goal chances. Substitute Brain Mallon in for McConville pointed with Stefan Forker taking his final tally to 6 points as Armagh cut the deficit to 3-7 to 1-10 with 13 minutes left on the clock. A few long deliveries from Armagh went astray as did point attempts that fell short ably dealt with by competent goalkeeper James Reilly. It was fitting that two of Cavan’s main stars on the night Dunne and McKiernan should have the last word as their points left it 3-9 to 1-11 at the long whistle from Down referee Brendan Rice.

Next up for Armagh is a trip to Pairc Esler on Wednesday night to take on the “Auld enemy” Down in a game that will decide who progresses to the semi-final of the competition. A draw will do Down to advance with a big win for Armagh needed for them to go through on scoring difference as all 3 teams will have finished with 2 points should the Orchard put one over on the Mournemen. For Paul Grimley and his backroom team it will be a case of seeing if the good performers from the Cavan game can show more improvement and that more fringe players are given the opportunity to state their case for the League whose start is not all that long away.

Armagh – Niall Geoghagan, Ciaran McKeever, James Donnelly, Finian Moriarty, Niall Rowland, Aidan Forker, Mark Shields, Stephen Harold (0-1), Kieran Toner, Gavin McParland (1-0), Niall McConville (0-1), Ethan Rafferty, Declan Carville, Stefan Forker  (0-6), Eugene McVerry (0-1).

Subs: Anto Duffy for Rowland, Caolan Rafferty (0-1) for Carville, Brian Mallon (0-1) for McConville, Declan McKenna for Aidan Forker, Stefan Campbell for Mallon

Cavan-James Reilly, Oisin Minagh, Killian Brady, Damian Barkey, Padraic Reilly, Alan Clarke, John McCutcheon, Tomas Corr (1-0), Gearoid McKiernan (0-4), Damien O’Reilly, Declan McKiernan, Mark McKeever, Cian Mackey (0-1), Martin Dunne (2-2), Niall McDermott (0-2) .