Armagh 1-11 Monaghan 0-13: They may have made heavy weather of it for the most part but Armagh managed to collect their first brace of points in Division One of the Allianz Football League yesterday when they just managed to pip a gallant Monaghan side at the Athletic Grounds.
Indeed, the game appeared to have slipped away from the home side when Monaghan took a two-point lead with just five minutes left before the name Mallon was to surface in dramatic style and prove the Farney county’s undoing.
It was substitute Brian Mallon who stabbed in the only goal of the game with just three minutes of normal time remaining before right-full-back Andy Mallon — no relation — popped up in an unusual forward position to steer over what proved to be a spectacular winning point in injury time.
It was a sensational end to a rather turgid encounter that really only sparked into life in the second-half during which Monaghan looked the more inventive side but ultimately discovered that Armagh’s penchant for digging out results even when they are apparently swimming against the tide is still a significant part of their make-up.
And it was hardly surprising that Armagh manager Paddy O’Rourke afterwards alluded to his team’s staying power.
“I thought we showed great commitment and desire in the last seven minutes in particular,” said O’Rourke.
“The players underlined in that period they really wanted to win this game. We knew that Monaghan would be very tough opponents and the fact that we made things hard for ourselves militated against us at times.
“But we stuck at it and got the points — this sets us up for what will be a very interesting game against Down next Saturday.”
But O’Rourke also indicated that his side’s mistakes could have proved fatal.
“We made too many errors and if we continue to do this we will be punished further down the line. We have to eliminate these from our play,” he stated.
In a dull, listless first-half devoid of any real flair or sparkle Conor McManus and Paul Finlay (2) had potted three points from Monaghan frees and Grugan (2) and McDonnell had been on target for the home side from placed balls before McManus pilfered the first point of the game from play in the 26th minute
It was a testimony to the overall lack of clinical finishing.
But although Armagh grabbed the next three points through McDonnell (2) and Grugan to sweep into a 0-6 to 0-4 lead, mistakes still proliferated their play, particularly in terms of distribution. Too often their passes fell into welcoming Monaghan arms as frustration surfaced.
Finlay reduced the home team’s half-time lead to just one point (0-6 to 0-5) when he hoisted over a 35th minute free but the paucity of flair and cohesion on the part of both teams had been very much in evidence up until then.
With Finlay and McManus still the essence of accuracy, Mon
aghan built up a 0-10 to 0-8 lead before McDonnell provided a double helping of exquisite finishing to ensure that stalemate prevailed again at 0-10 each. But when the ubiquitous Finlay and McManus fired over further points, Monaghan appeared set to enter the winners enclosure at 0-12 to 0-10.
However, that was when Brian Mallon reacted smartly to a long, hopeful lob from McDonnell that was not cleared and stabbed the ball into the Monaghan net.
Yet again Monaghan responded with another McManus point but Andy Mallon emerged as the unlikely home hero when he pirated the golden score that not only gave Armagh victory but also spawned optimism for the remainder of their Division One campaign.
ARMAGH: P McEvoy, A Mallon (0-1), B Donaghy, F Moriarty, K Dyas, C McKeever, P Duffy, K Toner, C Vernon, R Grugan (0-4, 0-3 frees), M O’Rourke (0-1), M Mackin, B J Padden, G Swift, S McDonnell (0-5, 0-3 frees). Subs: B Mallon (1-0) for Padden (55 mins), J Lavery for Mackin (57). Yellow cards: McKeever (3 mins), Mackin (17), McDonnell (22), Donaghy (68), B Mallon (71)
MONAGHAN: M Keogh, K Duffy, Darren Hughes, C Walshe, C Galligan, D Mone, David Hughes, N McAdam, D Clerkin, G Doogan, M Downey (0-1), J Turley, C McGuinness, P Finlay (0-7, 0-5 frees), C McManus (0-5, 0-2 frees). Subs: T Freeman for McGuinness (55 mins), E Lennon for Turley (62), S Smyth for Downey (68). Yellow cards: Clerkin (5 mins), Downey (11).
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)