Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Armagh 1-14. Waterford 1-5.
IT wasn't pretty but Armagh are back on the front foot of Ladies GAA after Saturday's Division Three Final win over Waterford.
Played in Parnell Park Dublin, the Orchard girls learned from last season's heatbreaking final defeat to rivals Down, when after leading throughout they were caught by a late Mourne rally.
On Saturday there were signals that Waterford may do likewise but heroic Armagh defending along with Waterford's poor shooting ensured the Orchard girls won the title and more importantly promotion.
Had Armagh Ladies lost they would have remained stagnant in a Division where it is tough to improve.
But victory places them in the Division Two next season, where they will play neighbours Down and another League Final is worth considering, even at this early stage.
Caoimhe Morgan was immense in defence and the value of Saturday's win wasn't lost on the Lissummon star.
"There was loads of pressure on us coming into this for we simply had to get out of the third division at this stage. Failing again would have left a real cloud over the foreseeable future of Armagh football but now we've the building blocks in place to go forward," said Morgan.
“Now that we've banked a higher level of football for next spring we can turn our attention to the coming Championship campaign and approach playing Tyrone in a very positive frame of mind.
“The reason we were so desperate to win this wasn't as much for the sake of a trophy but to give ourselves stepping stones for further success and everyone will now be really up for that task though today showed we've still an awful lot of work to do.
“That said, even against stronger sides, we won't have the particular pressure there was on us here. We watched the closing stages of last year's final on the journey down and that hurt drove us on but heightened the tension too so it's a real relief to get the job done this time."
Four years ago, Armagh Ladies were dangerously in freefall but when few were willing to manage the team, James Daly stepped up to the mark and he deserves enormous credit.
He is often quick to say that it isn't hard to manage players of the quality he has, and while there is no doubting the talent at his disposal, Daly has helped nuture the hunger of the senior players, while bringing through promising young talent too. Already an All-Ireland winning manager at Minor level Daly in the past three years the Dromintee man as won an Intermediate All-Ireland and at Division Three title and there will be no fear when the Orchard girls take on Tyrone in the Senior Ulster Championship next month.
Saturday's final wasn't the spectacle anyone wanted to showcase Ladies football but Armagh were worthy winners.
Having fallen behind, Lauren McConville, Mags McAlinden and Fionnuala McKenna's (free) replied for Armagh. Liz Devine scored Waterford's only point from play in the first half but they should have scored more only for wasteful shooting and Armagh duly punished.
Kelly Mallon and Kelly tagged on points before Crossmaglen's roaving forward Lauren McConville brilliantly robbed Waterford's Mary Foley and played a one-two with McAlinden before burying her shot convincingly into the roof of the net.
Armagh's confidence was high and substitue Siobhan Mackle tagged on a point with her first touch to give Armagh a 1-06 to 0-2 lead at the break.
McConville, McKenna (two) and Aoife McCoy helped gave Armagh a healthy 1-10 to 0-3 but Waterford threw everything they had at the Orchard defence.
They bagged a goal from substitute Shauna Dunphy but then Waterford blew a great chance to come back into the game when Michelle Ryan blasted her penalty wide. Waterford continued to press but the Armagh's defence stood strong with Morgan courageously throwing her body on the line on numerous occasions and her sisters Niamh and Sarah Marley got stuck in too.
The game finished 13-a-side after a flurry of cards in the last ten minutes.
Armagh full-forward Mallon received a harsh straight red after 53 minutes, with team-mate Sarah Marley and Waterford duo Shona Curran and Grainne Kenneally all going into the sin bin.
But Armagh had done enough and victory on Saturday will only matter if the Orchard girls continue to build and strive to improve, and the indications after their latest win is that there is more to come from this bunch of girls.
ARMAGH: Katie Daly, Mairead Tennyson, Caoimhe Morgan, Sarah Marley; Marian McGuinness, Niamh Marley, Sharon Reel, Caitlin Malone, Caroline O'Hanlon (capt), Niamh Henderson, Fionnuala McKenna (0-5, 2 frees), Aoife McCoy (0-1), Lauren McConville (1-2), Kelly Mallon (0-2) and Mags McAlinden (0-1).
Subs: Siobhan Mackle (0-3) for Malone 28', Shauna Grey for McGuinness 38' and Lousie Kenny for McAlinden 45'.
WATERFORD: A Jordan, N Dunphy, G Enright, M Foley, S Curran (0-1), K McGrath, G Kenneally, M McGrath (capt), E Power, L Wall, M Ryan (0-2 frees), M Wall, A Wall, M Revins and L Devine (0-1).
Subs: H Landers (0-1) for Revins 19', and S Dunphy (1-0) for Devine 36'.
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