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McGeeney joy as dominant Armagh lift promotion bid

Armagh 6-22 Offaly 0-10

By John Campbell

It's never over until the fat lady sings but yesterday at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh, she did not even have the opportunity to clear her throat.

Long before referee Rory Hickey sounded his final whistle, the destination of the two points was assured as Armagh took up residence on easy street against Offaly to thrust themselves into the Division Three promotion frame.

For manager Kieran McGeeney, it was a satisfying experience yet tempered by the knowledge that Louth, Antrim and Tipperary loom on the horizon in the race to Division Two.

"Obviously it's great to have Andrew Murnin, Stefan Campbell and Jamie Clarke on song again and I thought the team played some superb football in this game," said McGeeney.

"It's encouraging to have run up a big score because this could prove crucial if matters should come down to score difference at the end of the day.

"We have three more important matches coming up and it's good to note that competition for places has been stepped up."

By half-time, the Orchard County had already pocketed victory. Having shown a clean pair of heels to their visitors from the throw-in, they revelled in bountiful possession, incessant movement and a litany of scoring opportunities.

Just five minutes had elapsed when Armagh led by 1-5 to nil, their goal coming from Niall Rowland, and when Stefan Campbell tucked away the hosts' second goal in the 19th minute, the floodgates opened.

Andrew Murnin, Niall Grimley and Jamie Clarke potted points before Grimley tucked away Armagh's third goal in the 26th minute.

Offaly, restricted to breakaways and clearly discomfited by Armagh's smooth cohesion and abundant flair, tried desperately to stem the tide but three further points helped thrust McGeeney's side into a commanding 3-11 to 0-6 interval lead.

And they heaped further ignominy on their opponents after the break when Murnin, Rory Grugan and Anthony Duffy rifled in further goals which were complemented by a points blitz that brought Offaly to their knees.

Twelve Armagh players scored, six substitutes made an impressive contribution and all six starting forwards made a huge impact on the scoreboard.

Statistics don't always tell the full story but on this occasion they formed the core of an embarrassingly one-sided narrative.

Armagh: B Hughes; M Shields, C Vernon 0-1, P Hughes; N Rowland 1-0, B Donaghy, A McKay; S Sheridan 0-2, A Findon; R Grugan 1-3 (1f), A Duffy 1-1, N Grimley 1-3; J Clarke 0-2, S Campbell 1-4 (2f), A Murnin 1-2. Subs: B Crealey 0-2 for Findon (h/t), G McParland 0-1 for Campbell (44), G McCabe for Shields, C McKeever for Murnin (55), A Forker for Grugan (57), O MacIomhair 0-1 for Clarke (63). Yellow cards; Clarke (43),

Offaly: K Garry; N Derby, J Lawlor, S Pender; C Donoghue, E Rigney, D Hanlon 0-1; E Carroll 0-2, C McNamee; G Guilfoyle 0-1, P Cunningham, M Brazil; S Doyle, N Dunne 0-4 (3f), B Allen 0-2. Subs: J O'Connor for O'Donoghue (24), J Walsh for Brazil (45), S Nally for Derby (50), J Gethings for Cunningham (50), N Bracken for McNamee, D Carroll for Rigney (65). Yellow cards: Guilfoyle (21), Carroll (58).

Referee: Rory Hickey (Clare).

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