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Armagh’s first responders.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Armagh’s first responders. thumbnail JOE McElroy was outstanding when he came off the bench against Westmeath.

ARMAGH manager Kieran McGeeney hailed the response his side displayed in Sunday's impressive Division Three clash against Westmeath.

WESTMEATH ...1-11

ARMAGH ...2-17

Played in Mullingar, the Orchard side intially flattered to frustrate with seven first half wides, before falling behind early in the second and then blitzed their opponents with Ethan Rafferty leading the attack.

It was a cruicail win for Armagh, which keeps them top of Division Two and a morale boasting victory over their promotion rivals.

They had nine different scorers, with each of the six forwards and two midfielders scoring to register 2-17 for the second week in a row.

"We started off very slow and we missed a lot in the first half and we probably left 1-5 behind us in the first half and it was a wee bit frustrating especially in the first 20 minutes," said McGeeney.

"But they did well and came back into it. They did ok in the second half and when Westmeath pushed us they responded well and responded in style and finished very strong.

"There was some really good performances there today, especially wee Minnie McShane and Ethan really stood up, and so it was good to see it." It took Armagh 18 minutes to register their first score but they still led at break in what was a frustrating opening half.

Westmeath set their stall out early with the lively Ronan O'Toole slipping over a point in the first minute.

Armagh took a while to get up to speed as Westmeath were quicker and sharper early on, by making interceptions and being first to the 50-50 balls and with three minutes gone the dangerous Luke McLouglin doubled the Midlanders lead.

With ten minutes gone Armagh were two points adrift despite having taken control as Charlie Vernon, Ronan Lappin and Ryan McShane kicked four wides.

The direct long ball into Rafferty was a tactic that caused Westmeath problems but still Armagh found little joy as they kicked increased that wides tally to six.

However, Rory Grugan's converted free on 18 minutes got Armagh off the mark and with that monkey off their back they their tails were up but not before Westmeath substitute David Whelan replied with a point.

The crucial goal came on 21 minutes when again Rafferty fetched a long delivery and at the edge of the square he fed Ronan Lappin who crashed his effort into the net.

A minute later Grugan robbed Westmeath defender Boidu Sayeh, for the first time, and pointed a minute later to give the Orchard men a deserved two point lead.

As expected, it was a physical battle and players such as Stephen Sheridan, Charlie Vernon and Forker worked tirelessly along the middle, with Sheridan making several impressive marks.

Rafferty then swung over a wonderful tight-angled point and Armagh looked to be on a march as Westmeath were forced onto the back foot, yet the Leinster men fought back and Frank Boyle's point on 27 minutes closed the gap.

Two minutes later Grugan converted his second free but Westmeath's impressive John Heslin did likewise.

Armagh should have bagged a second goal but despite having the advanatge of three against one defender the ball somehow failed to find the net and was cleared off the line after hitting both posts.

But Grugan converted his third free to extend Armagh's lead. Westmeath had a late first half rally but they kicked two wides, but it was an idication of what was to come.

Half-time: Westmeath 0-05 Armagh 1-05 Stephen Sheridan struck over a magnificent tight-angled point to have the fans on their feet in appreciation and Niall Grimley tapped over a free but Westmeath were slowly growing in confidence with Luke O'Loughlin directing the flow and their support play was excellent.

A converted free from Heslin and a point from Westmeath's full-back Killian Daly closed the gap, although Rafferty replied.

Callum McCormack added a score as Westmeath grew visibly more confident and it was of little suprise when James Dolan bagged a goal to give Westmeath a 1-09 to 1-08 lead with 51 minutes played.

Armagh's response was immediate, Sheridan powered through the middle and kicked perfectly into space to Grugan, who ran directly at goal and shifted rough tackle but kept going before being hauled down in the box.

The penalty was awarded and Grugan converted and Armagh was back in front.

Substitue Joe McElroy floated over a beauty and Aidan Forker quuckly added another score before McElroy squeezed over an even better point and on 55 minutes Armagh led 2-11 to Westmeath's 1-09.

Armagh pushed on and Greg McCabe's impressive 40-metre solo run through the middle set-up Rafferty and his finish between the sticks was of equal quality.

Captian Grugan robbed Sayeh for a second time and pointed before Armagh finished with an Ethan Rafferty flurry, who slotted over an arrange of four impressive finishes.

Overall McGeeney was content. This was a game Armagh had earmarked as a tough assement and the Orchard boss feels Westmeath will be in the shake up at the end of the League.

"Westmeath are a good team and they are going to be there or thereabouts at the end of the League," said McGeeney.

"I suppose the Championship game last year was an aggressive game and we knew coming down here we would probably get a good welcome and the fellas stood to their task.

"Losing Andrew [Murnin] before, something like that would normally set us back but the other players stood up and that is one of the good things about it and something to be happy with."


Indeed it was another fine team performance and Ryan McShane and Paddy Burns have been excellent in their first season and McGeeney was delighted with his players.

"I thought Ethan was fantastic up front," McGeeney said.

"Paddy Burns has been excellent. Minnie [McShane] and Ronan [Lappin] also did well and it is a great thing to see from a manager's point of view, players who want to play for their county really putting their hand up.

"They are not looking for anyone to take it off them and that is encouraging. It is still very early in the year and it is not Championship football but if we take the two games to date we have to be happy with the two of them.

"Westmeath really came at us and then they got a goal in where they would call their scoring end. I suppose it was against the run of play and they knocked in a point or two either side of it, you could feel that things mightn't work well.

"But the players responded and it was really good, we got a couple of scores and got ahead with a penalty. Grugan did exceptionally well. He capitalised on a mistake but we will take that.

Armagh: Blaine Hughes; Patrick Burns, Aaron McKay, Paul Hughes; Niall Rowland, Gregory Mc- Cabe, Mark Shields; Stephen Sheridan (0-1), Charlie Vernon (0-1); Ryan McShane (0-1), Aidan Forker (0-2), Ronan Lappin (1-0); Rory Grugan (1-4, 0-2f, 1-0 pen) Niall Grimley (0-2f), Ethan Rafferty (0-5, 0-1f).

Subs: Joe McElroy (0-1) for Niall Rowland (49), Brendan Donaghy for Patrick Burns (59), Ben Crealey for Ronan Lappin (59), Anthony Duffy for Mark Shields (65), Aaron Findon for Niall Grimley (70), Ryan Kennedy for Aidan Forker (73).

Westmeath: Eoin Carberry; Mark McCallon, Killian Daly (0-1), Boidu Sayeh; Noel Mulligan, Frank Boyle (0-1), James Dolan (1-0); Alan Stone, John Heslin (0-3f); Kieran Martin, Ronan O'Toole (0-1), Ger Egan; Callum McCormack (0-1), Luke Loughlin (0-2), John Egan.

Subs: David Whelan (0-1) for John Egan (10), Finbar Coyne (0-1) for Alan Stone (45), Conor Slevin for Noel Mulligan (57), Jordan Marshment for David Whelan (66).

Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan).

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