Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Armagh up for replay after Monaghan draw

Late power surge gives Orchard men an edge for part two

Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final, St Tiernach's Park, Clones, Co. Monaghan 28/6/2014 
Armagh vs Monaghan
Armagh's Charlie Vernon and Kieran Hughes of Monaghan
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final, St Tiernach's Park, Clones, Co. Monaghan 28/6/2014 Armagh vs Monaghan Armagh's Charlie Vernon and Kieran Hughes of Monaghan Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Monaghan 0-14 Armagh 0-14: Armagh spent a good chunk of last week ruminating on legal matters and how they might circumnavigate the punishments that the Competitions Control Committee laid upon the 'Armagh Three' of Andy Mallon, Brendan Donaghy and Kieran Toner.

If they were to take on the Ulster champions they would need all the able bodies they could get. So after they eschewed the nuclear option of going to the Disputes Resolution Authority on the day of the game, fate dealt them a joker in their hand.

The three players will face Monaghan in an Ulster semi-final after all, in the replay back in Clones next Sunday.

If the pre-match build-up was to an extent dominated by this issue, then the media ban placed on the Armagh squad in no doubt contributed to that.

Within the circle they are busy convincing themselves that the media, along with the various layers of GAA disciplinary bodies all have it in for them. That's fine, we are all big enough to live with that.

But they also took issue with the appointment of Joe McQuillan to referee this game – the problem here being that Joe hails from Cavan.

A brief explanation. They feel that they are in a dispute with Cavan. But they are not, as Cavan took their medicine and decided some time ago they would not appeal their punishment. So therefore Armagh's dispute lies solely with GAA justice.

Any suggestion that McQuillan would not do his job right by Armagh was dispelled by the final play in this game. With Armagh trailing by a point they embarked on one last raid. Aaron Kernan received a slight tug on his jersey, the play developed and Kernan spilled the ball.

McQuillan almost blew the pea out of the whistle for a free. Many similar offences went unpunished throughout the game, not least a tug on Christopher McGuinness' jersey a few minutes before when another Monaghan point would have killed the contest.

Back to the final play, and the free was just outside the 'D'. Difficult, but only because of the enormity of what it meant given that time was up.

It suited a left-footed kicker, and in normal circumstances Kernan himself would have slotted it over with a great deal of concentration. But he was hampered with a knock so it was left to substitute Ruairi Grugan to loop over and bring this contest to another 70 minutes.

On the balance of things, Paul Grimley's Armagh certainly deserved another chance. They continued on their excellent defensive work from the Cavan game. From the half-back line, the inclusion of Aaron Kernan showcased his qualities while on the balance of it, James Morgan and Charlie Vernon can be reasonably happy with their days' work in containing Conor McManus and Kieran Hughes.

Kevin Dyas was once again an effective outlet in the half-forward line, running Vinny Corey into the ground and necessitating a Monaghan switch of Dessie Mone onto him. While at the apex of the attack, Jamie Clarke looked more up for it than he had in recent times, Stefan Campbell sparkled and the early black card to Kyle Carragher prompted the inclusion of the threatening Tony Kernan.

Monaghan will have a lot to ponder, but won't be getting carried away with it either. Usually, their versatility in attack will produce a few goal chances, here they couldn't muster one.

It was a huge surprise that Conor McManus played against Tyrone and while it became apparent that he was mostly there for taking frees and occupying at least one defender, he was brighter in the opening stages. He clipped a through ball into Kieran Hughes that produced a quick swivel and point at the end of the first quarter. Two minutes later he took a pass from Vinny Corey who fielded a kick-out, skipped past a couple of challenges before hoisting over to leave Monaghan 0-5 to 0-3 in front.

By the break, Armagh were on level terms.

They got there by dashing the waves of Monaghan's attack. Jamie Clarke had the better of his marker Colin Walshe while Monaghan's sweeper Kieran Duffy was caught out of position to cut out the Armagh attacks. Malachy O'Rourke was forced into a number of quick-fixes, including employing Ryan Wylie as an occasional extra sweeper.

While there were some howlers of wides from Armagh, they were kicked under some traditional Ulster pressure. The dismissal of Conor McManus – black carded for a deliberate collision with Finian Moriarty nine minutes into the second half looked like a blow, but Monaghan were lifted by a fine point off Dick Clerkin's left boot when he cut inside.

Armagh kept to their task and drew level on 0-11 each with 10 minutes to go through substitute Stefan Forker.

To Monaghan, it was as if that was their signal for one last push. Kieran Hughes made the most of dirty ball to seize upon it, turn Vernon and fist over, Rory Beggan ambled forward from goal to apply another effortless finish and Chris McGuinness stretched the margin to three with only six minutes of normal time remaining.

The final surge belonged to Armagh as Monaghan seemed to lie back slightly.

Clarke and Campbell tacked up points from play, before that final incident. From most of the ground it looked a harsh call, a soft free. From the replays of broadcasters Sky Sports, the jersey tug was clear.

Joe McQuillan got it right, at least in this instance.

The 'Armagh Three' will be back for Sunday. No more sideshows. The truth is coming.

Yellow cards: Monaghan – None; Armagh – McKeever (22), Clarke (33), Moriarty (62)

Black cards: Monaghan – McManus (44); Armagh – Carragher (20)

Red cards: 0

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)

Attendance: 18,886.

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