Armagh canít overthrow Kingdom

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Armagh canít overthrow Kingdom thumbnailAMIE Clarke goes to ground with Antrim's Conor Hamill. PMG1302


ARMAGH go into this Sunday's final fixture against Monaghan still sweating over their place in Division One of the Lidl National League after being narrowly beaten by Kerry at Duagh.
Caoimhe Morgan's girls had their noses in front at the interval after reeling off four scores in a row but were eventually edged out after raising only two white flags in a low-scoring second half of an unpleasantly physical contest.
The Mackin sisters, Aimee and Blaithin, former captain Caroline O'Hanlon and her midfield partner Niamh Marley all got on the scoreboard for Armagh but the Orchard didn't threaten to match their 3-12 tally against Dublin last time out or their 4-11 against Kerry last February. A fourth defeat of the current campaign means the Orchard crew could still be relegated in spite of having beaten both of Ireland's top two teams of recent years, Cork and Dublin, this spring.
At least the Orchard outfit's fate is in their own hands as a victory over Ulster rivals Monaghan will ensure Sean O'Kane's side stay up at the opposition's expense.
As it transpired, a win in Kerry would have guaranteed Armagh's top flight survival ahead of the final fixture because of Monaghan losing away to Donegal later in the afternoon, falling away after a fast start and being edged out by a point in the end.
Instead the results have ensured the relegation issue won't be settled until at least this Sunday when an Armagh win would send Monaghan down but a Farney victory could complicate matters greatly.
That would leave the two teams on two wins each and it could yet be a three-way tie on six points if Mayo fail to follow up their weekend win over Dublin in Croke Park by beating Kerry and also lose their rearranged game against Donegal.
Rather than opting for head-to-head result - which would favour Monaghan if they beat Armagh to draw level with them on points - or points difference, which would give the Orchard scope to lose narrowly and still stay up as they are currently on minus 10 compared to the Farney's minus 21 - the NFL regulations specify a relegation play-off for teams tied on points.
Two more Mayo defeats would leave them locked with Armagh and Monaghan on six points in which case points difference still isn't used but a draw is made to see which team gets two chances in a three-way play-off. Of course an Armagh win this weekend would wipe out all those scenarios and condemn Monaghan to the drop rather than the irony of the Orchard outfit falling through the trapdoor after that historic first ever victory over Cork and unprecedented away win against Dublin. At least O'Kane's side remain in control of their NFL fate and remain well capable of getting the job done after failing to secure that vital third victory at Duagh where Armagh were outscored five points to two in an attritional second half.
From three points each, both teams enjoyed good spells, Kerry posting three scores on the bounce before O'Hanlon and Aimee Mackin kicked two apiece to send Armagh in ahead, but the hosts got four of the first five points of the second half.
O'Hanlon closed the gap to one with nine minutes left but Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh, one of two very useful forwards for Kerry along with Sarah Houlihan, added another point to leave Armagh chasing a goal in the closing stages.
The Kingdom girls began the current campaign by going down heavily to Munster neighbours Cork and then narrowly at home to Dublin but bounced back with wins over Donegal and Mayo before losing to Galway last time out. Like Armagh they went into the weekend's penultimate league game with two wins from five fixtures so still not out of contention for a place in the semi-final line-up or safe from the threat of relegation. O'Kane made only one albeit signficant change from the initial line-up against Dublin, dropping out of form Harps skipper Fionnuala McKenna from the starting team for the first time in her 70-match Orchard career.
The 23-year-old's confidence has appeared alarmingly low of late and here O'Kane elected to
stick with Dromintee's Shauna Grey, who had come on for McKenna after only 20 minutes at Abbotstown.
There were several positional switches from the Dublin match and the Armagh management made changes as they pressed for the win with McKenna and Forkhill's fox in the box Amy Mulholland sent on but the elusive goal just wouldn't come.
Champions Cork made it five wins from six matches - their only defeat having been at Armagh's hands - by beating closest challenges Galway while the other two semi-final places look to be between Kerry, Dublin and Donegal who are all away
from home for their last league game.
Down lost their fifth match out of six in Division Three, 0-19 to 1-3 away to Wexford, while weak Kilkenny opted out of facing former Armagh manager James Daly's Longford who had already booked their place in the Division Four semi-finals with a series of devastating victories.
KERRY: L Brueggner; E Lynch, C Kelly (capt), A Desmond; C Murphy, E Sherwood, S Murphy; L Scanlon, A Brosnan; L Rogers, A Galvin, D Hallisey; S
Houlihan, L Ni Mhuircheartaigh, M O'Connell.
ARMAGH: C O'Hare; C Morgan (capt), C McCambridge, S Marley; M Sheridan, S Reel, N Coleman; N Marley (0-1), C O'Hanlon (0-3), A McCoy, B Mackin (0-1), L McConville; S Grey, S Finnegan, A Mackin (0-4). Subs used: M Tennyson for Morgan, F McKenna for B Mackin, A Mulholland for Finnegan.


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