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Campbell points the way to second win

• Allianz NFL Div 3 Wexford 1-9 Armagh 2-13

Two consecutive League wins for Armagh coming up to a two week break in proceedings means that the Orchard County who were hot favourites for promotion before a ball was kicked have fulfilled their opening obligations. A week after staging a remarkable late home comeback to beat visiting Tipperary 2-8 to 0-13 Armagh travelled to Wexford who had lost their opening game away to Clare.

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney started the Wexford Park game with 6 changes from the team that began against Tipperary. Team Captain Ciaran McKeever, goalkeeper Tim Harney forward Eugene McVerry and another trio of Tony Kernan (0-1), Mark Shields (1-0) and the last day’s match winner Jamie Clarke (1-5) who between them had accounted for 2-6 of the 2-8 scored. Niall Geoghegan went between the sticks, Andy Mallon and Brendan Donaghy came into the defence, Stephen Harold, Niall McConville joined skipper for the day Caolan Rafferty in attack. Wexford, for their part, showed 4 changes from the team that started against Clare, Tiernan Rossiter, Declan Murphy, Dermot Flood and Charlie Lung making way for Simon Donoghue, Brian Malone, Kevin Rowe and Eoghan Nolan. If Armagh supporters had been thinking before the game where the scores were going to come from it was certainly on their minds in the opening quarter of an hour into this second League game. The saying that “football is a funny old game” will always be part and parcel of  it’s DNA.

Armagh took 17 minutes to get on the scoreboard at Wexford Park by which time the home team had run up a 4 point lead with Adrian Flynn (6min), Kevin O’Grady (12), Ben Brosnan (free 13 min and 15) minutes all finding the target. Stefan Campbell’s 17th minute pointed free sprung Armagh into life big time as the Clan Na nGael clubman was to rattle over a further four frees to put the hosts 5-4 in front. After the levelling point Armagh had withdrawn Stephen Harold replaced by Tony Kernan and moments later Armagh management were forced to make another change with Mark Shields coming in for the black carded Sean Connell.

The first substitution made an immediate impact as he found Ethan Rafferty with a super pass and the Grange man fired the leather past a helpless Shane Roach in the Wexford goal to complete a remarkable second quarter recovery by Armagh that turned a 4 point deficit into a 4 point interval lead 1-5 to 0-4. Wexford had been held scoreless for the last 20 minutes of the half, longer than the opening drought that Armagh had experienced.

Armagh began the second half in the same dominating fashion as they had finished the first but were wide of the mark on a couple of occasions before a first from play from Campbell stretched the lead to 5 points 1-6 to 0-4. Wexford replied with their first score since the fifteenth minute from Brosnan as Armagh brought in Gavin McParland for McConville. Three points in as many minutes from Aidan Forker and two from Ethan Rafferty left Armagh 7 points clear and coasting. But out of the blue Kevin O’Grady provided the muted home crowd with something to shout about, a goal, quickly followed by a point to leave just a green flag between the sides with 20 minutes remaining. Wexford’s intended revival was cut short by a black card for goalscorer O’Grady and an unanswered 1-4 from Armagh. An Ethan Rafferty converted free settled Armagh back into their rhythm as substitute Gavin McParland opened his account with a point for the meat in the sandwich between another for Rafferty to take his personal tally to 1-4. Eugene McVerry came in for Aidan Forker just before the biggest cheer of the afternoon as Charlie Vernon split the uprights to make it 1-13 to 1-6. Armagh were not done yet as substitute Ciaran O’Hanlon who replaced Caolan Rafferty, rattled the Wexford net with practically his first touch to put the game out of sight. To be fair to a gallant home side they battled bravely to the end and produced the last two points of the game to leave it 2-13 to 1-8 at the long whistle.

Next up for Armagh is a visit to Limerick on March 1. The Shannonsiders failed to score in the opening half against Tipperary but managed 1-2 in the second as they fell to a 12 point loss 1-14 to 1-2 having won their opening match at home to Sligo 0-14 to 1-9. Armagh and Fermanagh are the only two teams in Division Two with two victories apiece as Louth recorded a very good 1-16 to 0-13 Drogheda victory over Clare.

Armagh: Niall Geoghean , Andy Mallon, Charlie Vernon (0-1), Michael Murray, Brendan Donaghy, Finnian Moriarty, Sean Connell, Aaron Findon, Stefan Campbell (0-6), Ethan Rafferty (1-4),  Aidan Forker (0-1), Stephen Harold, Miceal McKenna, Caolan Rafferty,  Niall McConville Subs: Tony Kernan for Harold, Mark Shields for Connell (Black card), Gavin McParland (0-1) for McConville, Eugene McVerry for Forker, Ciaran O’Hanlon (1-0) for Caolan Rafferty

Wexford: Shane Roche, Paraic O’Keeffe, James Breen, Michael Furlong, Joey Wadding, Rob Tierney,  Simon Donohoe,  Paddy Byrne,  Brian Malone, Colm Kehoe, Adrian Flynn (0-1), Kevin O’Grady (1-1) , Ben Brosnan (0-5) , Kevin Rowe, Eoghan Nolan Subs: Kevin O’Connor (0-1) for O Grady