Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Third win sets up Saturday night showdown in Armagh

● ALLIANZ NFL DIV 3 Armagh 2-16 Limerick 1-6

A third league win on the trot for Armagh sets them up nicely for a table topping tilt with Fermanagh who themselves will come to the Athletic Grounds on the back of a trio of wins in Division Three. Armagh were comfortable 13 point winners over Limerick 2-16 to 1-6 at Fitzgerald Park, Kilmallock whilst Fermanagh condemned Tipperary to their second defeat 2-9 to 0-11 at Brewster Park.

Armagh showed two changes to the selected team with Peter Carragher and Andrew Murnin in from the off in place of Stephen Harold and Jamie Clarke.  In all then manager Kieran McGeeney had made a half dozen changes to the team that started in the win over Wexford, as Brendan Donaghy, Sean Connell, Stefan Campbell and Niall McConville were missing with Mark McConville, Mark Shields and Tony Kernan added to the starting team.

Limerick showed only one change from the team that started in defeat by Tipperary with Michael Brosnan replacing Colm Moran in attack.

Armagh laid an early marker to set up this comfortable victory by racing into a 1-3 to no score lead inside 11 minutes despite playing against a strong breeze. A Tony Kernan free on 3 minutes opened the Armagh account with the same player combining with Aidan Forker to set up Finnian Moriarty for point number two. A 6 man sweeping Armagh move saw a long delivery from Kernan to Ethan Rafferty enable the full-forward to knock the ball into the path of Forker who finished to the net with aplomb. When Andrew Murnin set up Miceal McKenna for the first of his own personal haul of 5 points Limerick, who failed to score in the opening half against Tipperary, must have feared the worst. On 19 minutes the home side grabbed their opening score in bizarre fashion as Armagh goalkeeper Niall Geoghegan was penalised by Carlow referee John Hickey for delaying the kick-out and from the resulting throw-up a foul was conceded enabling Killian Fahy to open the Treaty account. Ehthan Rafferty raced through the middle of the home defence seeking a goal but his attempt was deflected over the bar to leave it 1-4 to 0-1 after 20 minutes. Out of the blue Limerick were thrown a lifeline in the shape of a goal with Hegarty and Sheehan combining to set up Tommy Lee who raised a green flag and lifted his team for the remainder of the half. An alert Forker cleared a deft Hegarty touch off the goaline to deny the hosts a second goal just before Danny Neville from a free cut the lead to 2 points 1-4 to 1-2. On the half hour, star of the opening half Forker added a point to end a ten minute barren spell for the visitors. A foul on Hegarty saw Neville point the free but Forker and Kernan set up McKenna for the last point of the half and a 1-6 to 1-3 interval lead for Armagh.

In a repeat of the opening half a Tony Kernan free opened the second half scoring followed by a McKenna point to stretch the lead to 5 points. Limerick goalkeeper Brian Scanlon converted a “45” which was immediately cancelled, a fourth minor from McKenna.Ciaran O’Hanlon replaced Murnin as Mark Shields opened up a 6 point gap for the second time with a point 1-10 to 1-4. Another defence splitting attack from Armagh paved the way for Shields who is very adept in front of the posts to put the game to bed as a contest as he coolly slotted home a second Orchard goal. Stephen Harold and Eugene McVerry replaced Carragher and Forker who was on a yellow card. A super pointed free from a very acute angle from Tony Kernan was followed by further Armagh points from O’Hanlon and Kernan. Gavin McParland and goalkeeper Paddy Morrison were brought on for a piece of the action as the game had petered out as a contest. Limerick substitute Gareth Noonan raced in along the end line to fist the first Limerick point in 22 minutes quickly followed by a Buckley free to take their tally to 1-6. Armagh were not finished just yet as Caolan Rafferty and Ciaran O’Hanlon completed the day’s scoring for a 13 point winning margin which enabled Armagh go top of the table on scoring difference.

Three league wins in a row, 4-29 scored in the last two matches, without chief marksman Jamie on board, competition for places at a premium with new faces beginning to make the most of their opportunities. Carragher and Murnin can be very pleased with their contributions at Kilmallock as can Forker, Moriarty, Kernan and McKenna. No need to get too carried away though as this was a poor Limerick team in comparison to the ones who provided opposition since the millennium. Still, as the saying goes you can only beat what‘s in front of you.

Next Saturday night a rejuvenated Fermanagh, under Pete McGrath, will be a totally different kettle of fish in comparison to what has gone before. The Ulster rivalry is the added ingredient into the mix with familiarity and past experiences all being evoked. Fermanagh have had wins over Louth, Sligo and Tipperary amassing 2-39 in the process. With 1-19 of that total to his credit it is easy to point out full-forward Sean Quigley as the main danger. Fellow attackers Tomas and Ruairi Corrigan, Paul McCusker, captain and midfielder Eoin Donnelly, plus defenders Declan and Ryan McCusker to name but a few, are all accomplished footballers and the Athletic Ground challenge will not phase them. With Clare (away to Tipp at 3 pm before Armagh play Fermanagh) and Louth (away to pointless Sligo on Sunday) two points adrift of Armagh and provide the next opponents for the Orchardmen, the Saturday night top of the table showdown could have a decisive say on the promotion race. The starting 15 for Armagh on Saturday night will be hard to configure but the fact that it is only March and the management has such problems can only be for the good at the end of the day. Armagh will have to produce a lot better for the full duration of the match against Fermanagh if the points are to be won. The contest is set up like a championship winner takes all prize and the rise in the physical intensity and physicality of the game might reflect this, given the high stakes on offer.

Armagh:Niall Geoghegan; Andy Mallon, Charlie Vernon, Michael Murray; Aidan Forker (1-1);  Finnian Moriarty, Mark McConville, Aaron Findon, Peter Carragher; Caolan Rafferty (0-1), Miceal McKenna (0-5),  Mark Shields (1-1), Tony Kernan (0-4), Ethan Rafferty (0-1), Andrew Murnin (0-1)  Subs- C O’Hanlon (0-2) for Murnin,Stephen Harold for Carragher, Eugene McVerry for Forker, Gavin McParland for Kernan, Paddy,Morrison for Geoghegan

Limerick-  Brian Scanlon (0-1),  Sean O Dea, Johnny McCarthy, Robert Browne, Iain Corbett, Padraig Browne ,Cillian Fahy (0-1), Thomas Lee (1-0), Gearoid Hegarty, Darragh Tracey Danny Neville (0-2), Seanie Buckley (0-1), Mickey Lyons, Cian Sheehan , Micheal Brosnan Subs- Peter Nash for Lyons, David Ward for Brosnan,  Gareth Noonan (0-1) for Lee, Packie Moran for Tracey,John Riordan for Hegarty

Ref-John Hickey (Carlow)