Armagh 1-11 Cavan 3-09: New Armagh manager Paul Grimley has acknowledged that there is a long, hard road ahead if the county is to regain the status it enjoyed in a stunningly successful spell that spanned 2002-2008.
But the Orchard County boss has already rolled up his sleeves and is immersing himself fully in what many view as an unenviable task.
He received more than a morsel of encouragement, too, when his exciting batch of youthful talent just came up short against a better-organised and more clinical Cavan side in what proved a riveting Power NI Dr McKenna Cup tie at the Athletic Grounds.
Typically, Grimley was unafraid to paint a warts and all picture in the aftermath of a game that marked the first tentative step in what he hopes will prove a significant renaissance.
“We are a hell of a way behind Cavan in terms of our development of young talent. Cavan have been bringing players through at Under 21 level and this is reflected in their present senior team,” declared Grimley, “But new players have to be given their chance and I must say that I was pleased with my team’s performance.”
“We know that we are in for the long haul. It’s important that new players get game time at this early stage.”
Armagh’s defensive frailties were glaringly exposed by Cavan on occasions but if this was a source of disappointment to Grimley, he camouflaged it with hope.
“This was a learning experience for the players,” he added.
“I thought the third goal was a bit harsh, though.”
Certainly, resilience was the quality that perhaps best epitomised Armagh’s performance.
Behind at 2-3 to 0-3 in the 20th minute by which stage Thomas Corr and Martin Dunne had plundered opportunist goals for the visitors and Gearoid McKiernan was already on his way to the man of the match accolade, Armagh trimmed that deficit to three points at the break (2-5 to 1-5) courtesy of a smartly-taken Gavin McParland goal in the 31st minute.
And when they proceeded to whisk over three quick-fire points on the resumption through impressive substitute Caolan Rafferty, the impressive Stefan Forker and the busy Stephen Harold, Armagh looked as if they might force themselves into the driving seat.
But defensive naivety paved the way for Dunne’s second goal for Cavan.
Brian Mallon, Forker and Eugene McVerry managed to keep the home fire burning with a further salvo of points but when Dunne and McKiernan supplemented their excellent personal contributions with late points, Grimley’s hopes of making a competitive winning debut as boss were dashed.
The injury-time dismissal of Kieran Toner was a minor irritant on an occasion when the pluses outweighed the negatives from an Orchard County view.
Armagh: N Geoghagan; C McKeever, J Donnelly, F Moriarty; N Rowland, A Forker, M Shields; S Harold (0-1), K Toner; G McParland (1-0), N McConville (0-1), E Rafferty; D Carville (0-1, free), S Forker (0-5, 0-4 frees) E McVerry (0-1). Subs: A Duffy for Rowland (23 mins), C Rafferty (0-1) for Carville (28), B Mallon (0-1) for McConville (48), D McKenna for A Forker (60), S Campbell for Mallon (69). Yellow cards: McVerry (34), A Forker (57), Moriarty (60). Red card; Toner (70)
Cavan: J Reilly; O Minagh, K Brady, D Barkey; P Reilly, A Clarke, J McCutcheon; T Corr (1-0), G McKiernan (0-4); D O’Reilly (0-1), D McKiernan, M McKeever; C Mackey, M Dunne (2-2), N McDermott (0-2). Subs: J Hayes for Minagh (33 mins), N Murray for Brady (44), O O’Connell for McDermott (65), D Tighe for O’Reilly (70), M Leddy for D McKiernan (72). Yellow card: K Brady (13).
Referee: Brendan Rice (Down).