Armagh manager Peter McDonnell will undoubtedly elicit rays of comfort from thier 1-13 to 1-12 victory over Dublin in conjunction with the official opening of Pearse Og Park yesterday, but will also be aware that there is still much work to be done before his team enters the championship ring against Tyrone on May 31.
McDonnell availed of the opportunity to give the majority of his squad members game time against a Dublin side that were in a decidedly low gear in the first-half before finding something approaching their rhythm in the last quarter.
Armagh’s defensive frailties, so pronounced in their recent mauling by Cork, still give cause for concern and McDonnell would not appear to be any closer to cementing what he believes to be his best midfield partnership.
Old hands Steven McDonnell, Brian Mallon and Martin O’Rourke flourished in attack during segments of the game while Paul Duffy underlined his versatility and of the substitutes used, Tony Kernan and Finian Moriarty showed why they are odds-on to start against Tyrone.
Armagh led 0-9 to 0-6 at half-time, by which stage McDonnell had stamped his imprint on the proceedings with four points while Alan Brogan had kept Dublin in-touch by picking off four of their scores.
Ryan Henderson’s goal for the home side was cancelled out by a similar score for Dublin from Brogan and a late flurry of points from frees by Thomas Quinn cloaked the final scoreline in respectability from the visitors’ perspective.
The absence of Ronan Clarke up front meant that Armagh were stripped of their attacking pivot while veteran Aidan O’Rourke, among the raft of substitutes, showed he still possesses enthusiasm and craft.
Manager McDonnell, (pictured) aware that Tyrone are approaching full-strength for the Championship showdown at the end of the month, is confident Armagh will present a bigger threat to Mickey Harte’s ambitions of landing the Ulster title — and that’s just for starters, it would seem — than many believe.
ARMAGH: P Hearty; A Mallon, K Toner, B Donaghy; A Kernan (0-1, free), C McKeever, C Rafferty; D McKenna (0-1), C Vernon; B Mallon (0-1), M O’Rourke, P Duffy ()-1); S McDonnell (0-5, 0-1 free), R Henderson (1-2), S Forker. Substitutes: T Kernan (0-2) for Forker, S Kernan for B Mallon, A O’Rourke, for Rafferty, E McNulty for Donaghy, K O’Rourke for McDonnell, J Feeney for Henderson, F Moriarty for McKeever, T McClelland for Toner, B Shannon for A Mallon, P Kernan for A Kernan, B McKeown for Vernon, P McEvoy for Hearty.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; R O’Carroll, D Bastick, A Hubbard; P Griffin, B Cullen, D Lally (0-2); C Whelan (0-1), R McConnell; L O Hinneachain, P Flynn, A Brogan (1-4): J Sherlock (0-1), M Daveron, T Quinn (0-4, all frees). Substitutes; K Bonner for O Hinneachain, D Murray for Cullen, E Fennell for O’Carroll.
Referee: Pat McEnaney (Monaghan).