The prospect of an intimidating mission at inhospitable Aughrim looms for Armagh this weekend, but manager Paddy O’Rourke believes that his side can still end Wicklow’s involvement in the qualifiers following this nail-biting draw at the Morgan Athletic Grounds.
“If we can play to the same level of intensity for the greater part of the replay that we showed in the second half of this drawn game, I don’t think we will be too far away,” suggests O’Rourke.
By half-time on Saturday, Wicklow led by 0-9 to 0-4, Leighton Glynn having wreaked havoc with his pace and finishing, while Tony Hannon’s free-taking and James Stafford’s voracious work rate in midfield had seriously discomfited their hosts.
But a lucrative eight-point blitz in the third quarter, underpinned by five spectacular scores from Jamie Clare and a couple from Steven McDonnell, hoisted Armagh into a 0-12 to 0-10 lead by the 63rd minute.
Full-forward Seanie Furlong, however, threw Wicklow a lifeline when he squeezed in a 68th minute goal before an Armagh point from substitute Gavin McParland sent the match into extra-time.
And although Armagh again seized the initiative with points from the hugely impressive Malachy Mackin, Johnny Hanratty and Charlie Vernon, Wicklow replied with points from Furlong and Stafford.
They then forcibly threw down the gauntlet to the Orchard County when Furlong pirated his second goal after Aaron Kernan had fired over two points for the home side.
Kernan completed his hat-trick in the fraught closing moments to ensure stalemate.
Armagh: P Hearty; A Mallon, B Donaghy, P Duffy, A Kernan (0-3), C McKeever, F Moriarty; J Lavery, C Vernon (0-1), K Dyas, B Mallon, M Mackin (0-3), M O’Rourke (0-1), S McDonnell (0-4, 0-1 ‘45’, 0-1 free), J Clarke (0-5). Subs: D McKenna for Duffy (36 mins), J Hanratty (0-1) for Dyas (40), T Kernan for B mallon (44), J Murtagh for O’Rourke (53), G McParland for Murtagh (70).
WICKLOW: J Flynn; C Hyland, A Byrne, S Kelly; A Mcloughlin, B McGrath, D Hayden, J Stafford (0-1), R Finn, J P Dalton, T Hannon (0-3, 0-1 ‘45’, 0-1 free) N Mernagh (0-1), P Earls, S Furlong (2-4, 0-2 frees), L Glynn (0-4). Subs: A O’Malley for Dalton (52 mins), C McGraynor for Hannon (61), P Dalton for Hyland (65).
Referee: Pat Fox (Westmeath).