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McDonnell leads Armagh's promotion charge

Armagh merged a St Valentine’s massacre with the Stevie wonder show to such an extent at Crossmaglen yesterday that they have suddenly acquired fresh status as viable promotion candidates from Division 2 of the National Football League.

Hapless Westmeath suffered utter humiliation on a day on which sporting romance was conspicuous by its absence with the seasoned Stevie McDonnell plundering a stunning 1-9 from play as he led the rout of the visitors.

But manager Paddy O’Rourke has lost no time in scotching any romantic notions that his side might have taken a decisive step onto the glory path.

“There are a lot more difficult games ahead of us as we go through the league. However, I was very happy with the work-rate and application of the players. While Stevie was undoubtedly the star turn, he will be the first to admit that when we start our next game against Laois in three weeks time what happened yesterday will be history,” declared O’Rourke.

By half-time, the Orchard County had all but assured themselves of their opening brace of league points when they led by 1-9 to |0-5, McDonnell by than having complemented his seventh minute goal with four points.

And even though beleaguered Westmeath manager Brendan Hackett re-vamped his side at the interval by introducing James Durkan, Francis Boyle and Ronan Doolin, it made no difference. Armagh promptly engaged overdrive and the visitors were left floundering.

By the end of the third the home team led by 2-12 to 0-6 after wing-back Finian Moriarty underlined their dominance with a spectacular 52nd minute goal with Charlie Vernon and McDonnell involved in the clever build-up.

Westmeath were restricted to just three points in the entire half two of which came from frees.

\[Peter Hutcheon\] and clearly some way short of the levels of fitness and stamina required even at this early stage of the season, had no answer to Armagh’s authority and composure and now find themselves already wallowing in the relegation mire.

ARMAGH: P McEvoy, A Mallon, B Donaghy, P Duffy, A Kernan (0-2,0-1 free), C McKeever, F Moriarty (1-0), B Shannon, K Toner, J Feeney (0-1), C Vernon (0-1), G Swift (0-2), R Henderson (0-1), S McDonnell (1-9), T Kernan (0-2, both frees). Substitutes: M McNamee (for Henderson 52), P Kernan (for Moriarty 55), C Watters (0-1, for A Kernan 57), J O’Neill (for Feeney 61), K Dyas (for Duffy 62)

WESTMEATH: G Connaughton, K Gavin, M Ennis, J Gaffey, G Egan, D O’Donoghue, D Harte, D Duffy (0-1), S Bracken, T Warburton, P Greville (0-3, two frees), J Smyth, D Healy, D Glennon (0-4, 0-3 frees), C Lynam. Substitutes: G Hoey for Smyth (14 mins), J Durkan for Healy, F Boyle for O’Donoghue, R Doolin for Warburton (all half-time), D Healy for Gavin (51).

Referee: Martin Higgins (Fermanagh).

Belfast Telegraph


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