Sports

Orchard Ladies through to All-Ireland last eight

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Orchard Ladies through to All-Ireland last eight thumbnailArmagh Ladies

ARMAGH won their first Championship match since the 2015 All Ireland quarter-final by beating Westmeath in Saturday's high-scoring qualifier at Lannleire.


Armagh Ladies... 3-16
Westmeath... 4-11


Sean O'Kane's side duly booked their expected place in the last eight of the TG4 Senior Championship but the Orchard's deserved victory was still in doubt up until Maggie Farrelly's final whistle of an increasingly fraught afternoon.

Two disallowed goals and three second half sinbinnings made life difficult for Armagh who on several occasions seemed set to put the Westmeath challenge to bed before being pegged back by the Leinster runners-up.

Westmeath scored 1-1 in the last 90 seconds of the first half to reduce Armagh's interval lead to two points but that still left them with a significant challenge considering the orangewomen would have the wind behind them in the second period.

When Blaithin Mackin pointed straight after O'Hanlon had audaciously chipped the keeper from more than 45 metres out for a magnificent goal, the Orchard crew were seven up with 21 minutes left.

However Westmeath replied by raising a green flag at the other end inside 60 seconds and early in the final quarter Aimee Mackin had a goal ruled out by Farrelly for kicking the ball out of the diving goalkeeper's grasp.

With experienced campaigner Marian McGuinness in the sinbin, the Orchard could have done with the goal standing but Mackin and O'Hanlon floated long-range scores with the wind to take Armagh six clear again.

Armagh had a let-off when Ciara Blundell struck the crossbar and sub Sarah Marley mopped up the danger, but the prolific Maud Annie Foley landed yet another free and sub Leona Archibold converted a penalty in the 57th minute.

It was scored past emergency net-minder Kelly Mallon with debutant third choice goalkeeper Ellen McVerry having been inevitably binned for dragging down a Westmeath forward with a blatant rugby tackle.

A recurrence of the tendon trouble which kept her out of the entire National League campaign this spring meant Armagh Harps forward Mallon wasn't fit for selection on Saturday but she was called upon as goalkeeping back-up with both Caroline O'Hare and Anna Carr out injured.

Hearts were in Armagh mouths throughout more than eight minutes of injury-time though Mackin's eighth point had ensured a Westmeath goal wouldn't be enough in itself for victory.

When half back stalwart Sharon Reel received Armagh's third yellow card of the afternoon, Westmeath seemed obliged to go for a make-or-break goal even with a host of Orchard defenders on the line.

But Foley popped it over the bar like her five previous successful frees and 13-woman Armagh somehow hung on until Farrelly's final blast brought relief.

Prolific free-taker Foley had put Westmeath ahead in the opening minute after Morgan, miraculously returning from three months out with a significant knee injury, had fouled captaincy counterpart Lauralee Walsh who would prove a real handful for the Orchard defence.

The woman who has had an IRFU rugby sevens contract for two years before returning to inter-county gaelic this season had a succession of Armagh markers in that opening period with Morgan, Clodagh McCambridge and Mairead Tennyson sharing the tough task of trying to curtail her.

Fionnuala McKenna landed an equalising free won by Blaithin Mackin and then a trademark run by the dynamic Aoife McCoy yielded a clearcut penalty which O'Hanlon nervelessly slotted past Karen Walsh in the Westmeath net.McConville's first point was quickly cancelled out by one from Lauralee alsh but McCoy's next probing run resulted in Aimee Mackin netting in the ninth minute and the 2015 All Star immediately added a point to put Armagh six ahead.

A burst up the middle by wing back McGuinness seemed certain to deliver an Armagh goal but by the time McKenna knocked the ball into the net it seemed she had encroached on the small square so it didn't stand.

Foley landed another free but Blaithin Mackin won a ball in for McConville to post her second point though the young Shanes star then hit a wide after good approach play by Armagh from deep and O'Hanlon also drew a blank midway through the half.

Westmeath's wides count was worse than Armagh's - six to two in the opening half though it was 4-1 the other way in the second - and debutant McVerry also had to save at big full forward Johanna Maher's feet at the end of the first quarter before Walsh did raise a green flag on 17 minutes.

Good work from McConville led to a McKenna point and Aimee Mackin kicked another from long range to sandwich a Walsh score for Westmeath, making it 2-6 to 1-5.

An Aimee Mackin skimmer was tipped over the bar by Karen Walsh and although an unmarked Kelly Boyce Jordan got a far-too-easy score at the other end, O'Hanlon's surging run eventually yielded a free for McKenna.

Aimee Mackin cut in from wide on the right to strike a sweet point with her left peg but then came that Westmeath flourish at the end of the half, Blundell palming to the net and Foley landing a free.Both Niamh Marley and Reel, who also produced one athletic intercept, were ticked early in the second half, joining McGuinness on thin ice, ahead of McKenna and Maher exchanging points as Armagh initially didn't make much of the wind.

But then McConville won a free which Aimee Mackin converted followed by O'Hanlon's spectacular strike and a Blaithin Mackin point all in the space of 90 seconds.

McCambridge battled hard to thwart Maher's hard running in response to that Armagh scoring spree but her big burst set up Jordan - was was replaced seconds later by Archibold - for a low finish to the net and McKenna missed a long-range free soon afterwards. Aimee Mackin kicked a superb point after claiming an O'Hanlon ball in from the right sideline but another Foley free reduced the gap to four again when Orchard captain Morgan was withdrawn - replaced by sister Sarah - on 46 minutes.

The skipper continued to offer typically vocal leadership from the sideline thereafter as things heated up with the McGuinness sinbin, Aimee Mackin's disallowed goal and ultimately that frenetic finish.

Although winning was everything after so many marginal losses this season, this was far from a perfect performance from Armagh and understandable annoyance with Farrelly's refereeing shouldn't deflect from the need to address several vulnerabilities ahead of the Kerry clash.

 

 

ARMAGH: E McVerry; C Morgan (capt), C McCambridge, M Sheridan; M McGuinness, M Tennyson, S Reel; N Coleman, C O'Hanlon (2-1, 1pen); A Mackin (1-8, 1f), A McCoy, N Marley; L McConville (0-2), B Mackin (0-1), F McKenna (0-4, 2f). Subs: S Marley for Morgan (46 mins), K Mallon for N Marley (55), N Reel for McKenna (61).

WESTMEATH: K Walsh; K Dunne, A Giles, A Martin; R Dillon, R Dunne, L McCartan; L Brennan, F Coyle; K Boyce-Jordan (1-1), M-A Foley (0-7, 6f), F Claffey; C Blundell (1-0), J Maher (0-1), LL Walsh (1-2). Subs: L Archibold (1-0, pen) for Boyce-Jordan.

Referee: Maggie Farrelly (Cavan).

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