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Armagh off to a flyer but McGeeney stays calm

Armagh 2-17 Sligo 0-9

Leading light: Armagh captain Rory Grugan led by splendid example against Sligo yesterday.
Leading light: Armagh captain Rory Grugan led by splendid example against Sligo yesterday.
John Campbell

By John Campbell

When Armagh missed out on promotion from Division Three of the Allianz Football League last year, this triggered considerable soul-searching and not a little heartbreak within the Orchard County.

It was hardly surprising than that manager Kieran McGeeney was not quite jumping through hoops when his side clinically disposed of a raw, untried Sligo outfit at the Athletic Grounds yesterday.

With memories of last year's gut-wrenching defeat to Tipperary still vivid, no one, least of all the thoroughly grounded McGeeney, was prepared to hail a one-sided demolition of the Yeats County as a stepping stone to more significant success.

McGeeney had clearly digested the backdrop to his team's productive league opener - Sligo paraded a battery of novices, took 49 minutes to get their first score from play and surrendered far too tamely to the home side who played with vigour and indeed on occasions panache.

"It was a good team performance, that was the real satisfying aspect of the match," declared McGeeney.

"I thought the manner in which we took our chances was good, we built well from the back and I continue to be impressed by guys who have only come into the side quite recently.

"Maybe we got a bit sloppy in the middle of the second half but when you put 2-17 on the scoreboard you can have reason to be happy. Overall I can't complain - we won't be lighting any bonfires yet but when you look at the conditions you would have to feel happy about the way the team played."

He added: "Our free taking was good, our re-starts were good, we moved the ball well and varied our game. But the fact of the matter is that we have big tests ahead of us beginning with Westmeath on Sunday."

Yet long before half-time yesterday Armagh had given a broad hint that promotion might not be outside their gambit.

They lost no time in getting into their stride and led by 0-10 to 0-2 at the interval by which stage their visitors had managed to pot just two frees via Adrian Marren.

In contrast, skipper Rory Grugan led the home team's points scoring bonanza but if that lifted their spirits, then Andrew Murnin's goal just on the re-start saw the side engage an even higher gear.

They upped the tempo considerably yet just when it seemed Armagh might simply glide down the home straight, Sligo discovered a new lease of life and created three goalscoring opportunities any one of which had it been taken might have given the closing stages of the game a different complexion.

As it was, the visitors had to be content with a the meagre haul of just three points from play via Stephen Coen while the accurate Marren landed his side's other six from placed balls including two 45s.

For new Sligo boss Cathal Corey it was a sombre introduction to the league yet he can take comfort from his side's resilience in the final quarter when they managed to temporarily rein in their hosts.

"The damage had been done by then, of course," admitted the manager.

Armagh: B Hughes; P Burns, A McKay, P Hughes; N Rowland 0-1, G McCabe, M Shields 0-1; S Sheridan 0-1, C Vernon 0-1; R McShane, A Forker 0-1, R Lappin; R Grugan 0-6 (5f), A Murnin 1-0, E Rafferty 1-3. Subs: N Grimley 0-3 for Lappin (h/t), J McElroy for McCabe (54), McCabe for McElroy 956), B Crealey for McShane (59), J McElroy for forker (67). Yellow cards: Lappin (3), Rafferty (62), Crealey (74).

Sligo: A Devaney; L Nicholson, E McGuinness, M Gordon; K Cawley, D Cummins, G O'Kelly-Lynch; J Clarke, P O'Connor; N Ewing, F Cawley, N Murphy ; S Coen 0-3, P Hughes, A Marren 0-6 (4f, 2 '45's). Subs: C Breheny for Clarke (32), L Caughan for F Cawley (44), S Carrabine for Cummins (45), Kyle Cawley for O'Connor (48). Yellow card: Ewing (73).

Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).

Belfast Telegraph


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