Armagh come back from brink
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
Armagh 4-9. Sligo 3-10.
DIVISION Three table toppers Armagh came back from the brink as a storming finish snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Sligo in Silverbridge.
When James Daly's side went eight points behind early in the final quarter of this Tesco Home Grown National League game their 100 percent record this season appeared under severe threat.
But the title favourites chipped away at the daunting deficit before hitting Sligo with the decisive double whammy of two goals in well under a minute to go back ahead with time running out.
To their credit the visitors tried to respond but couldn't score again and cannot now make the play-offs in contrast to their hosts who were already assured of a top four finish before this sixth straight win.
Armagh do deserve credit for salvaging victory from a perilous position and in spite of their own wastefulness, with wayward shooting, misplaced passes and a plethora of dropped balls undermining their efforts in attack.
They also got on the wrong side of the referee and it was the stream of frees given away which enabled Sligo to score four unanswered points when down to 14 players with their corner forward in the sinbin.
It had all looked like business as usual early on when an opening point by Sinead McCleary and a thumping free from Fionnuala McKenna were followed by a trademark goal by captain Caroline O'Hanlon in the sixth minute.
The skipper strode through the Sligo defence to hit the net, but it was a ball bouncing off her which allowed the visiting team to reply in kind within a minute and they tagged on a point and a free to draw level.
Sligo went five clear by sandwiching a goal with two points in the middle of the half and, although O'Hanlon nailed her second goal and cancelled out an opposition point, things got worse for Armagh in injury-time.
Recalled goalkeeper Catherine McAlinden gave away a penalty which Sligo confidently converted to send them in with a healthy lead on a scoreline of 2-3 to 3-5. Armagh began brightly on the resumption, Aoife McCoy and Caoimhe Murray supplying points in the first four minutes, and when Sligo lost a player to the bin few would have bet against the local ladies taking control.
Instead Sligo kicked a point followed by a hat-trick of frees while at a numerical disadvantage and added a further free in the 47th minute to stretch their lead to eight points. Although Armagh had time to pull the game out of the fire they hardly helped their cause by failing to convert chances - they had a dozen wides in the second half, including two goal chances for O'Hanlon and one for McKenna.
Carrickcruppen's Marian McGuinness also struck the cross-bar as for a while it looked like this simply might not be Armagh's day until those quick-fire goals from McCoy of Dromintee and centre half forward McKenna, the winner with three minutes left.
The league leaders were without two of their regular full forward line, Kelly Mallon and Mags McAlinden, through injury with McCoy and Caoimhe Murray coming into the team though Daly deployed O'Hanlon up front for periods.
This season's newcomer McCoy can be more satisfied with her afternoon's work than some senior colleagues while Niamh Henderson, introduced during the first half after being unavoidably late, was arguably Armagh's top performer.
Armagh: C McAlinden; M Tennyson, C Morgan, S Marley; S Reel, N Marley, D Morgan; S McCleary (0-2), C O'Hanlon (capt; 2-2); M McGuinness, F McKenna (1-3, 1f), S Mackle; A McCoy (1-1), C Murray (0-1), L McConville. Subs: N Henderson for Mackle (22 mins), C Malone for Morgan (39), C Marley for Murray (48), L Kenny for McGuinness (55).
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