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NFL Division One: Armagh stunned by Galway

By John Campbell

Armagh 0-18 Galway 1-20: Armagh's future in Division One of the Allianz Football League is hanging by a thread following this major setback at the hands of hitherto pointless Galway at the Athletic Grounds yesterday.

And manager Paddy O’Rourke is the first to admit that the orchard county now face a “monumental task” when they face All-Ireland champions Cork in their last game in the competition on Sunday next.

“If we want to stay in Division One we will have to get something out of this game against Cork,” said O’Rourke.

It’s a match that will test the character of the team but our fate is in our own hands.

“I cannot blame our defence for this defeat as the quality of ball which went into the Galway attack proved a big threat. We were not able to contain them and this told against us.”

Armagh indeed flattered to deceive in the first-half before ultimately surrendering rather meekly to a fired-up Galway side that have now been thrown an unexpected top-tier lifeline.

Indeed, Armagh’s blistering start yielded four unanswered points spanning the first seven minutes with Steven McDonnell (2), Malachy Mackin and Kevin Dyas all on target.

But it proved a false dawn.

Galway suddenly shed their inhibitions and within three minutes they were back on level terms, Finian Hanley drilling over a long-rage point before Cormac Bane swept home a penalty after home goalkeeper Philip McEvoy fouled Pauric Joyce.

And when Joyce, not named initially in the starting line-up but who was to prove hugely influential in this unexpected Galway coup, and wing-back Gary O’Donnell fired the westerners into a 1-3 to 0-4 lead, their side acquired a firm foothold on the contest.

Armagh, now restricted to occasional forays, found themselves forced onto the retreat as Joe Bergin and Finian Hanley tightened their midfield grip, and the wily Joyce held the ball up intelligently while Gary Sice was an inspirational force both in defence and attack.

The influence of Joyce proved crucial to Galway’s triumph — a fact admitted afterwards by Paddy O’Rourke.

“Pauric Joyce is still a great footballer,” admitted Armagh boss O’Rourke.

“He has a superb football head and when he got the ball in his hands he presented a big danger to us. He took some good scores and he also won frees.”

A brace of points from the lively Bane and another from a free by the accurate Joyce served to highlight deficiencies in the home defence before McDonnell and Clarke reduced the deficit with scores in the 27th and 30th minutes.

But it was Tribesmen who again seized the initiative when the marauding Sice, Concannon and Joyce whipped over points to leave the visitors ahead by 1-9 to 0-7 at the break.

And although substitute Micheal O’Rourke, McDonnell and Malachy Mackin posted r points on the resumption, Armagh’s vulnerability at the back was underlined when full-forward

Paul Conroy pilfered three long-range points from play to complement a further Joyce score that took Galway into a 1-14 to 0-13 lead.

But it was in the last 10 minutes that Galway really turned up the heat. In a frenetic spell of expansive attacking football, they hit five points without response before a late brace from McDonnell brought a semblance of respectability to the final scoreline from Armagh’s perspective.

By then of course the damage had been done.

And instead of achieving security of tenure in Division One at the expense of their struggling visitors, Armagh now find themselves staring into the relegation abyss.

Armagh: P McEvoy; A Mallon, B Donaghy, F Moriarty; K Dyas (0-1), C McKeever, P Duffy; K Toner, M Mackin (0-3); C Vernon, C Watters, G Swift; J Clarke (0-3), S McDonnell (0-9, 0-3 frees), J Murtagh. Subs: M O’Rourke (0-2) for Murtagh, P Hearty for McEvoy (both half-time), A Kernan for Swift (41 mins), J lavery for Duffy (58), T Kernan for Watters (62)

Galway: A Flaherty; A Burke, C Forde, J Duane; G O’Donnell (0-1), G Higgins, G Sice (0-3); J Bergin (0-1), F Hanley (0-1); P Joyce (0-4, 0-1 free), O Concannon (0-1), C Kenny; F Breathnach, P Conroy (0-4), C Bane (1-5). Subs: G Bradshaw for Kenny (44 mins), K Brady for Sice (72)

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)

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