Armagh's All-Ireland glory hopes flounder on a Quirke of fate
Armagh 2-7 Carlow 4-10
Armagh encountered Carlow's Ciara Quirke in superb form and they eventually collapsed in Sunday's All-Ireland Junior camogie Championship final at Croke Park.
Inept defending on occasions, an alarming tendency to concede possession and, perhaps most devastating of all, a hat-trick of goals from the outstanding Quirke consigned the Orchard County's dreams of glory to ashes.
Ahead by 1-5 to 1-4 at half-time thanks in the main to Colette McSorley's fine 14th minute goal, the Ulster side had looked set to build on their momentum after the break but instead imploded as Carlow summoned fresh energy to gallop to the crown.
Afterwards Armagh joint boss Paddy McArdle refused to seek refuge in excuses.
"I believe that the best team won on the day," declared the Middletown clubman.
"We were ahead at half-time and even though we conceded a goal just after the break, we landed another one to keep ourselves in the game.
"But after Carlow got their third and fourth goals there was not enough time left on the clock for us to salvage the match," he added.
Armagh relied rather too heavily on joint captain Ciara Donnelly for scores, five of her six points coming from frees, with her exquisitely-taken 46th minute goal leaving just two points between the teams at 3-6 to 2-7.
By then, though, the Quirke influence coupled with a dynamic input from impressive substitute Rachel Sawyer had already sapped Armagh's morale.
If Quirke's brace of goals in the 12th and 31st minutes highlighted the enormity of the challenge that Armagh faced, then Sawyer's precision strike in the 45th minute left them gasping for air.
Donnelly's goal, indeed, was to prove Armagh's last score of the match - they managed just two points from play overall - as Carlow romped through the closing segment with Quirke completing her hat-trick, Sawyer embellishing her goal with a second point and Eleanor Tracey bringing her haul of points to five.
Armagh's Grainne Kelly, though, fought back the tears to flash a message of hope for the county.
"We will be playing in Division Two next year which will be a big help to us," said Kelly.
"I feel that there is so much talent within the Armagh squad that we truly have the potential to be back in Croke Park in 2017," added Kelly.
Armagh: B Mone; H McGeown, N Conway, C McKinley; N Markey, G Kelly, E Hayes; B Murray, L McGoldrick; R Merry, M McArdle, C Donnelly 1-6 (5f); C McSorley (1-0), C Hill, L Donnelly. Subs: S Woods for McGeown (47), S Molloy for Markey (53), A McAlinden for Donnelly (58). Yellow card: Conway (43).
Carlow: N Doyle; G Nolan, N Quirke, A Ryan; T Wilson, K Nolan, B Nolan; C Mullins, T Meaney, M Doyle, E Brennan, E Tracey 0-5 (4f); C Quirke 3-2, M Nolan 0-1, A Ruschitzko. Subs: R Sawyer 1-2 for Ruschitzko (28), A Dowling for M Nolan (54), N Canavan for B Nolan (58), A Murphy for Ryan (59), M Doyle for G Nolan (60).
Referee: Andrew Larkin (Cork)