Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Armagh crash down to earth

Armagh's Eugene McVerry goes down under the challenge of Monaghan's Dessie Mone

Armagh 0-10 Monaghan 1-17: Unbridled joy for Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke but another harsh reality check for his Armagh counterpart Paul Grimley.

In an Allianz Football League Division Two where only a thin line separates flirtation with potential glory and the possible descent into virtual anonymity, every brace of precious points secured can arguably fashion a county's entire future.

Thus it was O'Rourke who, normally the most modest and unassuming of mentors, could scarcely conceal his delight when his team rather emphatically terminated the Orchard County's recent feisty renaissance.

Not that O'Rourke was enthusiastically beating the drums for his charges, of course – far from it indeed.

But with his team's two remaining ties involving confrontations with pressure-laden Laois and Galway, optimism is understandably the overriding emotion for now.

"We are in a better place because of this win over Armagh but we won't be losing the run of ourselves.

"What pleases me most is that we are improving and we have shown that we have new players who can not only come into this environment and survive but can actually thrive. The challenge now for us is to keep on improving and see where that takes us," observes Enniskillen schoolteacher O'Rourke.

Sharp, strongly focused and hugely competitive, his team had raced into a nine-point lead before Armagh left the starting blocks but when they did, Monaghan were forcibly reminded that they were actually in a contest, boasting just a modest 0-10 to 0-6 advantage at the break.

Jamie Clarke and Caolan Rafferty triggered the home team's response after Conor McManus and Jack McCarron had wrecked havoc for Monaghan earlier by sharing six points.

Armagh even spurned a golden opportunity to cement their spirited resilience when Jamie Clarke's 15th minute penalty was well saved by Rory Beggan.

Yet when the home team's recovery mission continued after the break, Monaghan were in danger of losing their way at 0-11 to 0-10.

But lethal duo McCarron and McManus steadied the ship once more, their late burst of accuracy coupled with a goal from Darren Hughes, who was having his first taste of action of the season, and the dismissal of Armagh's Andy Mallon to a black card in the 52nd minute helping to see their side home.

For Armagh, this was distinctly flat beer compared to the champagne football that had been served up against Laois in particular, this being one of the reasons why the majority of the 5,572 fans were in the Athletic Grounds in the first place.

Nor did manager Grimley, nothing if not profoundly honest, seek refuge in excuses as he surveyed the debris of a 10-point defeat which will do little to enhance morale for the two remaining fixtures against Galway and Donegal.

"We were beaten by a better team, that's the truth. We totally disintegrated and did not score in the last 25 minutes of the game.

"Yet we were only four points down at half-time when we could have been behind by a whole lot more, especially given the amount of possession that Monaghan had enjoyed," admitted Grimley.

And he went on: "Maybe had we taken some more of the chances that came our way at the start of the second-half when we were going well the outcome might have been different but it wasn't to be.

"We had momentum then and we were going forward with purpose but Monaghan seized the initiative."

"We have been in this position before of course and we have to sort it out. I said after the win over Laois that we would not spend time dwelling on that outcome and celebrating it and we won't get too down in the dumps over this result.

"I have told the boys that this game is history now and that their entire focus must be on our next match against Galway on Sunday week, which will be very important."

Armagh: P McEvoy; P Hughes, A Kindon, M Murray; M Shields, A Mallon, P O'Neill; S Harold (0-1) , E Rafferty; T Kernan (0-1) , R Grugan, C Rafferty (0-2); J Clarke 0-3(2f), , S Campbell, S Forker. Subs: B Mallon (0-1) for O'Neill (19), E McVerry (0-2) for Grugan (26), R Tasker for Forker (40), K O'Rourke for Shields (51). Yellow cards: A Mallon (6), Clarke (61), Rafferty (65). Black card: A Mallon (52).

Monaghan: R Beggan; K Duffy, D Wylie, F Kelly; C Walshe, V Corey, D Mone (0-1); G Doogan, O Lennon (0-1); K O'Connell, K Hughes (0-1), P Donaghy (0-1) ; D Malone, J McCarron 0-7 (0-5 frees), C McManus 0-6 (0-4 frees),. Subs: S Gollogly for Malone (26 – Blood sub), P O'Hanlon for Malone (51), C McGuinness for Donaghy (56), D Hughes 1-0 for Lennon (65). Yellow cards: Walshe (33).

Referee: David Gough (Meath).

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