Armagh waltz past Offaly

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Armagh waltz past Offaly thumbnailARMAGH’S Lauren McConville slips through a gap in the offaly defence on Sunday at the Abbey. BM1011

Armagh 3-14. Offaly 0-3.

ARMAGH'S Tesco HomeGrown National League promotion push continued with a fourth successive victory, but the Division Three title favourites failed to impress in Sunday's victory over Offaly, writes Richard Bullick.
The hosts had 20 points to spare in Newry but their sloppy performance was punished by being kept out on the field afterwards for a prolonged running session by an irate Armagh management team.
This match perfectly illustrated the cost of failing to secure promotion last year as James Daly's side found themselves in a no-win situation against outclassed Offaly and effectively fell between two stools.
They might have been better simply going out to see how much they could win by regardless of method rather than trying to play properly in a match which wasn't sufficiently competitive to learn anything worthwhile from or have relevance to the bigger picture of this team's development.
So although it was, by his own admission, Armagh's worst performance under Daly and left the man himself feeling frustrated it wasn't worrying for the immediate or longer term future as this wasn't a meaningful match.
“It was a sloppy performance from us which we lacked clinicality but games like this show why we absolutely need to get out of this division. At least the win keeps that objective on track so we'll take it and move on quite quickly," he said.
Daly praised Caoimhe Morgan for her role in ensuring the Orchard defence kept the visitors scoreless to almost injury-time in each half on an afternoon when the weather steadily improved but Armagh's attacking game didn't.
They won both halves by 10 points without the floodgates opening in what looked like the easiest fixture of the year at home to newly-promoted Offaly. Last season, Armagh walloped lowly Wicklow by a 45-point margin.
Inevitably some slackness creeps into team performances in matches which lack a truly competitive edge and paradoxically Armagh had too much possession, space and time along with too many options on the ball.
Sinead McCleary was unavailable due to work commitments and Daly rested the newly-engaged Sharon Reel, who is carrying an elbow injury, but he welcomed back captain Caroline O'Hanlon, Niamh Marley and Mairead Tennyson.
The skipper, showing no ill-effects from facing the British SuperLeague netball champions in England the night before, played with huge energy for Armagh and covered every blade of artificial grass on the Abbey Grammar pitch.
She started the move which led to her predecessor Mags McAlinden opening the scoring in the first minute and crowned an extremely influential first quarter display which featured two frees in quick succession with a fine goal.
Full forward Kelly Mallon chipped in with two first half points as did O'Hanlon's Carrickcruppen clubmate Caoimhe Murray, making her first start since returning to the county panel this season.
Those scores sandwiched a free from Fionnuala McKenna and, with Crossmaglen's Lauren McConville also on the scoresheet, Armagh were 12 up before Offaly finally opened their account with the half hour nearly up and added a second point in stoppage time.
Armagh made eight substitutions in the second half with McKenna among those making way, but few of the fringe figures made much impression including Dearbhail Campbell who offset an otherwise poor performance with the third goal.
The exception was fleet-footed Grange attacker Siobhan Mackle who looked lively from the moment she was introduced, contributed a cracking goal and added Armagh's last point of the afternoon.
O'Hanlon landed two points in the second half, while McKenna kicked a second free before her departure and Tennyson made the most of being moved forward with a well-taken point as Armagh added 2-5 to their interval tally.
ARMAGH: C McAlinden, M Tennyson (0-1), C Morgan, S Marley, R Murphy, N Marley, M McGuinness, N Henderson, C O'Hanlon (captain 1-4, 2f), A McCoy, F McKenna (0-2, 2f), L McConville (0-1), M McAlinden (0-1), K Mallon (0-2) and C Murray (0-2). Subs: S Mackle (1-1) for M McAlinden (36 mins), A Doran for Murphy (38), D Morgan for McKenna (43), D Campbell for Murray (45), C Duffy for McCoy (48), C O'Callaghan for McConville (51), C Marley for Tennyson (55) and M Burns for Henderson (59).

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