The One That Got Away
● Allianz National league Division 2 round 1 – Armagh 1-11 (14) Kildare 0-14 (14)
As Armagh team mentors and supporters made the journey home from Newbridge they would collectively be of the opinion that this was a point lost rather than gained following a 1-11 to 0-14 draw.
U-20 footballer of the year Jimmy Hyland showed great composure and maturity in the final minutes as firstly he pointed a monster free from 45 meters to put Kildare back level as the match headed into five additional minutes and then with the last kick of the game in St Conleths Park snatched a draw for Kildare. Lilywhites manager Cian O Neill will be delighted that his charges fought back from 5 points down entering the final quarter to halt a losing run of 9 leagues defeats in a row.
Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney heading back to his old stomping ground made two late changes to his selected team as Aidan Forker replaced Brendan Donaghy in defence and Jarly Og Burns came in for Rian O Neill in attack. Kildare on the other hand were for varying reasons without the services of 8 players who featured in their last championship outing prompting their manager to give a league debut to corner back James Murray and introduce U-20 All-Ireland winning players Mark Dempsey and Jimmy Hyland to his starting 15.
Stefan Campbell a handful all day for the Kildare defence had the ball in the net after 2 minutes but his clinical finished was ruled out by Roscommon referee Paddy Nielan for too many steps. Jamie Clarke shot the first of 6 bad wides for wind assisted Armagh in the opening half coupled with a few dropped efforts into goalkeeper Mark Donnellan hands. Kildare who had registered the games first wide opened the scoring after 5 minutes through Conor Hartley from a Keith Cribbin pass. Straight from the kick-out Armagh were level as Jarly Og Burns from about 60 yards fired over the equalizer. Kildare were dealt a huge blow as they lost big midfielder Kevin Feeley to injury following a accidental collision with Jamar Hall. Feeley was replaced by Fionn Dowling.
The quick ball delivery into the Armagh full forward line had Kildare in all sorts of bother. Jamie Clarke opened his account to put Armagh ahead and then Mackin saw his goal attempt come back off the crossbar. On 12 minutes Stefan Campbell increased the lead to 3-1 but quick points from sub Dowling followed by a Hyland free left it 3-3 after 17 minutes. Using the wind Niall Grimley pointed Armagh back in front from distance as Rory Grugan doubled the lead with a pointed free but the scores dried up for the visitors as they failed to score for 15 minutes which enabled Kildare to take a surprise lead. Doyle saw his fisted effort drop onto the crossbar and over with Ben McCormack taking full advantage of great work by Conway to level matters at 5 all. On the half hour mark an Adam Tyrrell pointed free following a foul on McCormack gave the home side the lead but a second Clarke point on the whistle sent the teams in on level pegging 6-6. Kildare would have been the much happier of the two teams as poor decisions, composure, shot selections and a little bit of misfortune left Armagh wondering how they were not comfortably in front.
As in the opening half it was the hosts who worked the scoreboard as Dowling gave them back the lead but Armagh hit back via a Niall Grimley free and a lead point from Jamar Hall was cancelled out by one from play by Hyland. A third from play for Jamie Clarke regained the lead for Armagh and on 13 minutes Jamie set up Campbell for the games only goal which was then followed by a Grimley free. 1-2 without reply had Armagh 1-10 to 0-8 ahead 15 minutes after the re-start and it looked as if the league points on offer were heading North.
Kildare brought on a few subs which injected new life into their challenge as they reeled off five unanswered points thanks to scores from Ben McCormack, Conor Hartley, Fergal Conroy, Aaron Masterson and Jimmy Hyland. Amazingly akin to the end of the first half Armagh hit another scoring drought failing to register for a full 23 minutes with a open goal chance fired wide by Joe Mcilroy as Armagh held a slender 1-10 to 0-12 with 5 minutes left on the clock.
Just as the third official showed 5 additional minutes Hyland landed a terrific 45 yard equalizer leaving it anyones game in the dying minutes. Armagh brought the ball downfield in search of the winner and when substitute Jason Duffy was fouled Grugan duly pointed the Orchard County ahead. With the last throw of the dice Kildare came again at the death with McCormack cleverly playing and getting a free leaving young Hyland to enhance his growing reputation with a last gasp leveller. Kildare got out of jail and Armagh were left wondering what if. The analysis of the what if is very simple you cannot go for over half of the match without scoring and expect to win.
Armagh:Blaine Hughes; Mark Shields, James Morgan, Aidan Forker; Greg McCabe, Aaron McKay, Connaire Mackin; Stephen Sheridan, Niall Grimley (0-3); Jemar Hall (0-1), Jarlath Og Burns (0-1), Ryan McShane; Rory Grugan (0-2), Jamie Clarke (0-3), Stefan Campbell (1-1). Subs: Rian O’Neill for Burns (48); Joe McElroy for Hall (60); Jason Duffy for McShane (65); Declan Loye for Forker (70 + 3)
Kildare:Mark Donnellan; Mark Dempsey, David Hyland, Mark Hyland; James Murray, Eoin Doyle, Keith Cribbin; Kevin Feely, Fergal Conway (0-1); Conor Hartley (0-2), Adam Tyrrell (0-1), Eoghan O’Flaherty; David Slattery, Ben McCormack (0-2), Jimmy Hyland. (0-4) Subs: Fionn Dowling (0-2) for Feely (7 inj); Cian O’Donoghue for Murray (48 -53, B/S);Aaron Masterson (0-1) for O’Flaherty (53); Cian O’Donoghue for M Hyland (59); Jason Gibbons for Hartley (60); Padraig Nash for Tyrrell (68).
Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).