Armagh go down in Galway Bay

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

ARMAGH will regret another poor start in a season of setbacks as two early Galway goals simply left them with too much to do to allow them to salvage anything from a numbing Division Two penultimate defeat in Tuam.
As before, however, Armagh didn't quit and it is highly commendable that in displaying great fight, determination and character, especially with a man down, that they came back to level with six minutes to go before succumbing to a late scoring burst from the home side.
Their regrets will come from the fact that comebacks only win praise, not games, if a winning result is not achieved.
The net result is that Galway, with a brilliant start and an exciting finish, have given themselves a fighting chance of avoiding relegation while Armagh with a poor start and a losing yet courageous comeback will fret, rather than worry, over the threat of relegation.
Against a stiff and at times telling spring breeze, Galway began with the use of a two-man front line of Martin and Armstrong with captain Paul Conroy employed in a roaming role.
Running at Armagh from the start caused the Orchard considerable havoc especially through the centre of the defence in a disastrous first half for the visitors. The bold approach of Armagh substituting three of their 'first nine' - Phelim O'Neill, Mark Shields and Michael Murray - stemmed the tide considerably and allowed Armagh the opportunity to claw back scores.
The game was barely on, seconds even, when Conroy fisted to give Galway a lead they would not relinquish all game.
Before Armagh could settle Bradshaw placed Hoare for a low volley first goal on three minutes. A moment later, good approach play by Armstrong and Lundy put Michael Martin in behind the defence for a close range finish to the net.
Seven scores down at 2-1 to nil, Armagh had a mountain to climb but they were willing with a Tony Keenan point initiating the comeback. Showing no signs of panic, Armagh continued with their recovery job and points from Rory Grugan, Eugene McVerry and Tony Kernan (free) had them back in contention around the end of the first quarter.
The problem was, however, and it too became a pattern of the game that each time Armagh got to within three points of Galway the Tribe were always able to put another one between the teams.
For a time then the game became a score followed by a counter score with a trio of Sean Armstrong frees matched by points from Rory Grugan, Eugene McVerry and Kevin Dyas to leave the score 2-5 to 0-7 after 25 minutes.
Seven 'total' scores each indicated the degree of evenness in the game play now.
Galway continued to keep their noses in front and produced a rush of scores from Kavanagh, Conroy and Armstrong as Philip McEvoy prevented another home goal with an excellent save.
Armagh were still competing with spirit and late points by Tony Kernan and Jamie Clarke (free) kept Armagh in a degree of contention at 2-8 to 0-9 at the interval, with those two early goals still proving to be the real difference if one considers in total scores 10-9 (2-8 to 0-9) that there was little now in playing terms between the teams.
On the restart, hope shone brightly for Armagh as first Rory Grugan goal chance was smothered up before Kevin Dyas landed a point to reduce the gap to four.
Rory Grugan went off injured shortly after to be replaced by the welcome return to duty of Aaron Kernan.
A further problem came Armagh's way after Armstrong had replied to the Kevin Dyas point.
Gary McCooey collected a black card to add to his earlier yellow and Armagh were now reduced to 14 men with some 23 minutes remaining.
Armagh responded well to this latest and yet another setback (is it to be a season of swimming against the tide?) as Jamie Clarke and Finnian Moriarity set up Tony Kernan for an excellent and well-executed goal.
After points were exchanged, Galway fell deeper back into defensive mode allowing Armagh to come on to them more.
The Orchard were now in confident mode and points from Dyas and then Finnian Moriarity from a Stephen Harold pass remarkably saw the sides level with just six minutes to go.
Armagh were now in a position to secure a 'get out of relegation threatened jail' card but sadly it was the home side who raised their profile and lifted their game hugely in those final crucial moments.
Powering forward knowing their Division Two life depended on it, four unanswered scores from Kavanagh, Conroy, Farragher and when Flynn popped up with the 'insurance point' gave Galway victory and allowed them to feel that freedom from relegation is still possible as the situation is in their own hands - a win over Monaghan away this Saturday.
For Armagh, there is both pain and hope. They will reflect ruefully and decide to make sure Donegal do not get a head start this Sunday.
Armagh's defence had a difficult time against the guile of Armstrong and Martin and the roaming of Conroy and though all gave their all, only Philip McEvoy and Rory Grugan enhanced reputations.
Armagh were second best at midfield with Stephen Harold never quitting but Galway's Fiontan O'Curraoin was outstanding in this sector and was one of the main reasons why Armagh were never allowed to get on top.
Up front is where Armagh's best were found with Tony Kernan, Kevin Dyas and Eugene McVerry producing noteworthy performances.
Armagh: P McEvoy, A Mallon, A Findon, M Murray (O Maciomhair 30, B Mallon 60), M Shields (F Moriarity 26), K Toner, R Grugan (A Kernan 41), S Harold, P O'Neill (G McCooey 9), C Rafferty, K Dyas, E McVerry, J Clarke, T Kernan, K Carragher.
Black card: G McCooey 47. Red card: G McCooey 47.
Scorers: T Kernan 1-3 (2f), K Dyas (0-3), R Grugan, E McVerry (0-2), J Clarke (0-1 f), F Moriarity, A Kernan (0-1).

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