A sad week for Armagh football ended with a nine-point drubbing by Cork to end all hopes of promotion to division one next season at Pairc Ui Chaoimh yesterday.
The well-documented retirements of some legendary figures in the build-up seemed to impact on a below-par display by the visitors, who were out-played for long periods.
Cork’s reward for scoring 17 points from play is a place in the league final against Monaghan on Sunday week after Kildare lost out by only drawing away to Meath.
Armagh never led at any stage of a game watched by a crowd of just over 2,000 with a sizeable contingent from the Ulster county on view to support their team.
Alas, they got precious little to cheer about, apart from an encouraging opening quarter, when they scored three points without reply to be on level terms, 0-3 apiece, after 16 minutes.
That was as good as it got for the visitors, because Cork claimed the next six scores to race 0-9 to 0-4 in front at the interval, thanks to controlling midfield and the pace of Paul Kerrigan causing all sort of problems for the defence.
Armagh raised their performance a couple of notches on the resumption and Cork needed the assistance of goalkeeper Alan Quirke to deny Steven McDonnell twice in quick succession.
The goal, which had been threatening, eventually came after 52 minutes, following a rare miss-placed pass by Graham Canty, McDonnell capitalising to steer in the only goal for 0-12 to 1-5.
Cork’s response was immediate and impressive, scoring the next four points, three from substitute John Hayes to finish the game as a contest.
Cork: A Quirke; R Carey, M Shields, A Lynch; N O’Leary, G Canty, captain, G Spillane; A O’Connor (0-1), N Murphy (0-1); P O’Flynn (0-1), P Kerrigan (0-5), P Kelly (0-1); J Masters (0-1), D O’Connor (0-2, 1 free), D Goulding (0-3). Subs: B O’Regan for O’Leary, yellow card 16 min, J Hayes (0-4, 1 free) for D O’Connor, yellow card 37 min, F Goold for A O’Connor 63 min, A O hAilpin for Masters 68 min.
Armagh: P Hearty; A Mellon, B Donaghy, B Shannon; A Kernan, C McKeever, captain, T McClelland; K Toner, J Lavery; T Kernan (0-3, 1 free, 1 ’45), A O’Rourke, B Mallon (0-2); S McDonnell (1-2, 2 frees), J Feeney, R Clarke. Subs: JP Donnelly for McClelland 26 min, K O’Rourke for A O’Rourke, yellow card 37 min, V Martin for Lavery 52 min, S Kernan for Feeney 53 min, F Moriarty for Shannon 62 min, R Henderson for Clarke 65 min.
Referee: M Deegan (Laois)