National Football League: Shot-shy Armagh facing dreaded drop
Armagh 1-9 Kerry 1-13: Armagh's position in Division One of the Allianz Football League remains far from secure following this defeat by Kerry at the Athletic Grounds yesterday.
And manager Paddy O’Rourke now has a huge task on his hands as he seeks to massage morale in advance of the all-important games against Galway and Cork early next month.
“We know that we need at least one more win to stay in Division One,” admitted O’Rourke. “We just do not have enough players who are scoring on a regular basis for us and that is an ongoing problem.”
Kerry’s traditional cohesion, the profound influence which Kieran Donaghy exerted at full-forward and the raft of experience they were able to introduce from their substitutes’ bench were the prime contributory factors in a victory which ensures their tenure in the top bracket for next year.
Armagh meanwhile remain a work in progress under O’Rourke.
“I think a full-forward line of Stevie McDonnell, Ronan Clarke and Jamie Clarke would be quite something,” mused O’Rourke — but Armagh fans will have to exercise patience before such a unit is paraded within the team.
Kerry carried too much subtlety and craft, particularly in the second-half.
Yet the sides were deadlocked at half-time (1-4 to 0-7), the home team’s goal coming from Kieran Toner. It was Darren O’Sullivan’s superbly-executed 52nd minute goal that effectively tipped the scales very much in Kerry’s favour.
The Kingdom had racked up three points without response, Kieran O’Leary (2) and Bryan Sheehan from a free setting the tone for their display.
With Billy Joe Padden playing in a deep-lying role in front of full-back Brendan Donaghy, Armagh rarely crossed the half-way line but when skipper Steven McDonnell converted a 13th minute free, this proved the signal for a concerted assault by the home side.
Ciaran McKeever and Gareth Swift swept over points that brought the sides level but in the 20th minute a rapid counter-thrust lead to midfield ace Toner thundering in a spectacular goal.
At 1-3 to 0-3, Armagh were more comfortable yet they were not to score again before half-time. Instead, Kerry closed ranks and when Cooper swept over a point in a breakaway, this triggered a spell of Kingdom dominance that saw Sheehan score his second point from a free.
Armagh goalkeeper Philip McEvoy was injured and forced to retire with John McCullagh taking over.
After Sheehan had pointed his third free, Cooper added another while further points from O’Leary and Aidan Maher saw Kerry keep their noses in front.
But it was O’Sullivan’s all-important goal that imbued the visitors with fresh energy.
McDonnell landed three points between the 61st and 64th minutes.
The fact that Armagh were held scoreless, though, from the 43rd to the 62nd minute of the second period tells its own grim story, though.
Armagh: P McEvoy, A Mallon, B Donaghy, F Moriarty, K Dyas, C McKeever (0-1), P Duffy (0-2), K Toner (1-0), C Vernon, G Swift (0-1), B J Padden, M Mackin, M O’Rourke, B Mallon, S McDonnell (0-5, 0-3 frees). Subs: J McCullagh for McEvoy (32), A Duffy for Grugan (45), D McKenna for Dyas (57), C Watters for Padden (60), J Murtagh for Mallon (64).
Kerry: T Mac a’Saoir, S Enright, K Young, T O’Sullivan, T O Se, E Brosnan, B Maguire, S Scanlon, A Maher (0-1), Darran O’Sullivan (1-0), B Sheehan (0-5, all frees), D Walsh, C Cooper (0-3, 0-1 free), K Donaghy, K O’Leary (0-3). Subs: D Moran (0-1) for Scanlon (28), P Galvin for Sheehan (49), Declan O’Sullivan for O’Leary (49), A O’Mahoney for Maguire (57), D Bohan for Brosnan (62).
Referee: Pat McEnaney (Monaghan).