Dublin 4-17 Armagh 1-10
Defeat is invariably hard to take but annihilation is particularly difficult to stomach.
The rich promise that Armagh’s feisty performances against Cork and Kerry offered in Division One of the NFL was initially diluted via the blip against Mayo and totally erased in this embarrassing collapse against Dublin yesterday.
No wonder manager Paddy O’Rourke cut a forlorn figure on the Croke Park touchline at the end. He had just watched his side suffer their most ignominious setback for many years, the team a pale shadow of the outfit that has largely dominated the Ulster championship since 1999 and which has spawned some of the greatest players ever to have worn the orange jersey.
Certainly, several luminaries were missing yesterday. But absent personnel cannot be forwarded as a viable reason for this shocking reversal.
Devoid of a coherent game plan, clearly lacking in pace in key areas and unusually vulnerable in defence, Armagh paid a heavy penalty for flaws which included 10 second-half wides.
O’Rourke did not look for excuses as he observed: “The early goals were killer blows. Those scores left us with too much to do.”
Dublin, all fluid movement and aristocratic finishing, showed that even without golden boy Bernard Brogan they are still an irresistible force.
Yet manager Pat Gilroy was quick to point out that although they may be the reigning All Ireland champions he still sees his team as “having work to do.”
A 19-point winning margin, of course, could understandably lead to a measure of complacency but there is obviously little chance of that, given Gilroy’s mantra.
“The league is for players to show their capability and that’s what the boys did in this game. There are still things that we have to work on despite our win. The early goals were important but we kept pushing on in the second-half and that was very relevant to our success,” said Brogan.
The writing was on the wall for Armagh in big, bold capital letters as Dublin streaked into a 2-1 to nil lead with just eight minutes gone.
Diarmuid Connolly’s well-executed opening goal was followed by an equally clinical finish from Mossy Quinn and Dublin bossed from thereon.
Outgunned at midfield from where both James Lavery and John Kingham were withdrawn, and particularly fragile at the back, Armagh conceded too much possession and territory and although Aidan Forker provided a temporary reprieve from the onslaught with a brace of points, Dublin were doing nothing more than taking a breather.
Their heavy artillery, with full-forward Eoghan O’Gara and the
mercurial Connolly wreaking havoc, resumed their bombardment and after both had posted fine points, the latter ghosted in to crack home a third goal to underline his team’s embarrassing dominance of the first-half.
Dublin were in overdrive and when Alan Brogan whipped over a point to leave his side ahead by 3-7 to 0-5 at the break, the score line fully reflected the vast gulf between the sides.
There was to be no reprieve for Armagh after the interval, either, man of the match Connolly helping himself to two further points before careering in from the left to sweep home a sublime fourth goal.
Caolan Rafferty provided a
glimmer of comfort for Armagh by stabbing in their goal in the 49th minute but for the remainder of the game they were restricted to just two points – and both those were from Brian Mallon frees.
This was just one of several damning statistics from his team’s viewpoint on a day when they were provided with the ultimate reality check.
Dublin’s Philip McMahon was red-carded in the 68th minute but by then his team had already become long-term tenants in the comfort zone.
Dublin: M Savage; D Daly, R O’Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy (0-1), G Brennan, C Dias; M D Macauley (0-1), E Fenell (0-1); P Brogan, A Brogan (0-1), P Flynn (0-2); D Connolly (3-3), E O’Gara (0-4, T Quinn (1-2). Subs: D Byrne for P Brogan (56 mins), J Cooper (0-2) for McCarthy (61), C Murphy for Fenell (65). Yellow cards: O’Carroll (44 mins), Flynn (45), McMahon (64). Red card: McMahon (68 mins).
Armagh: P McEvoy; A Mallon; B Donaghy, D McKenna; K Dyas, C McKeever, P Duffy; J Lavery, J Kingham; A Forker (0-4, 0-3 frees), M Mackin, C Watters; C Rafferty (1-0), A Duffy, B Mallon (0-4, 0-3 frees). Subs: G McParland (0-2) for Lavery (15 mins), B J Padden for Kingham (32), F Moriarty for Dyas (35), S Campbell for Forker (46), R Rafferty for Watters (56). Yellow cards: Forker (31), Mallon (31), McKeever (45), P Duffy (50), Moriarty (54).
Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo)