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Gaelic Games in Ireland

Armagh’s Conor Turbitt scores a goal against Monaghan. Gallery

Armagh show grit to earn a crucial point against Monaghan

Armagh may have hit the high spots in their recent league ties against Dublin and Tyrone but in this throbbing encounter at the Athletic Grounds last night they discovered that their more earthy virtues of character and courage were required in abundance to extract what could be a vital point from the contest. Monaghan may have entered the fray with just a point to their name but by half-time, when they led by 0-8 to 0-4, they had already rapped out a sharp message of defiance. And in doing so they shot 10 wides, made life extremely difficult for their hosts and served notice that they could engage a higher gear in the second-half. But Armagh’s resilience and staying power saw them clamber back into the picture and, indeed, threaten to cross the line ahead of their opponents in a frenetic finish. It was no surprise that relief was the overarching feeling of orchard county boss Kieran McGeeney (below) when the final whistle sounded. “Monaghan are very good at keeping possession, they made things difficult for us and they certainly made a big impression in the first-half,” said McGeeney, “We maybe made things hard for ourselves because we created goal chances which we would take in other circumstances. “Monaghan showed they could retain possession and had they been more accurate in their shooting in the first-half we might have been in real trouble. “I must say that I thought our substitutes again played their part. I thought we were doing all right in the first-half apart from one period in which we shipped two or three points. We were playing against the elements and you have to remember that Monaghan are a good side.” “We were looking for goals when maybe we should have been going for points and when you don’t get anything from such chances that this is going to cost you.” “I cannot fault the lads for effort. They gave it everything and obviously we are glad to have got the point because we face Mayo in our next match and, in my view, they are the hardest-working side in the country.” Monaghan certainly underlined their capacity for hard work last night by streaking into a 0-6 to 0-2 lead by the 28th minute with Armagh having failed to score from play, their two points coming from Rian O’Neill frees. In contrast, Conor McManus, Ryan McAnespie, Michael Bannigan, Jack McCarron, Killian Lavelle and Shane Carey were all on target for Monaghan before McManus added a brace just prior to half-time to give his side their comfortable 0-8 to 0-4 lead. Yet scarcely had the second-half got under way than McManus found himself trudging to the touchline after referee Barry Cassidy had flashed a red card in his direction. And with Monaghan’s tally of wides reaching somewhat embarrassing proportions, Armagh threatened to take over. Playing with greater momentum and purpose they launched a concerted period of pressure during which they were awarded a penalty in the 51st minute after Rory Grugan had been upended. But Rian O’Neill saw his thunderbolt from the spot hit the crossbar and the ball then appeared to cross the goal line – something social media appeared to confirm – but it was cleared to safety, with Armagh’s appeals falling on deaf ears. Yet Armagh’s fighting spirit was to bring its own reward two minutes later when a blistering foray down the right wing saw substitute Conor Turbitt drill home the only goal of the game to make it 0-9 to 1-4. It was another substitute, ex-captain Stefan Campbell who edged his side closer to the Farney outfit with a 57th minute point before Oisin O’Neill, the third arrival from the bench, brought the sides level in the 61st minute. But the drama wasn’t over. Tiernan Kelly hoisted over a majestic Armagh point to which Monaghan responded with a point from a Jack McCarron and their manager Seamus McEnaney said: “To play the majority of the second half with 14 men, a point was the least we deserved.” Armagh: B Hughes; P Burns, A Forker, A McKay; Connaire Mackin, N Rowland, J Og Burns; Ciaran Mackin, S Sheridan; J Hall, R Grugan, T Kelly; J Duffy, R O’Neill, A Nugent. Subs: C Turbitt for O’Neill (20), S Campbell for Rowland (h-t), O O’Neill for Sheridan (h-t), R O’Neill for Duffy (45), M Shields for Hall (56) N Grimley for Connaire Mackin (64), Armagh scorers: C Turbitt 1-1, R O’Neill 0-2 (2f), J Duffy 0-1,S Campbell 0-1, O O’Neill 0-1, T Kelly o-1. Monaghan: R Beggan; K Duffy, C Boyle, R Wylie; C McManus, D Ward, C K Lavelle; D Hughes, N Kearns; R McAnespie, M Bannigan, S Carey; A Woods, J McCarron, G Mohan. Subs: K Hughes for Kearns (17), C Walshe for Woods (54), A Mulligan for Mogan (61). Monaghan scorers: C McManus 0-4 (3f), J McCarron 0-2 (f), K Lavelle 0-1, M Bannigan 0-1, R McAnespie 0-1, S Carey 0-1. Referee: Barry Cassidy

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