Sports

Tipp pip Orchard in opener

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Tipp pip Orchard in opener thumbnailARMAGH ladies half forward Kelly Mallon is brought to ground by Tipperary captain Samantha Lambert at Silverbridge on Sunday.

It all went horribly wrong for Armagh ladies at Silverbridge on Sunday as Tipperary thwarted Orchard hopes of getting their much-heralded new era underway with a win in NFL Division Two.

ARMAGH ...2-10
TIPPERARY ...2-12

All Ireland Intermediate champions Tipperary came from eight points behind in the opening period to lead by five at one stage of the second as the Orchard crumbled badly and a late Armagh rally couldn't salvage victory.

That Tipperary purple patch produced 1-6 in a stunning spell of five minutes early in the last quarter as, with their tails up and the wind at their backs, the visitors showed why they haven't been beaten since 2016.

Tipperary played well and are a useful side but the orangewomen were frustratingly guilty of self-destructing and that catastrophic period of carnage left them with too much to do on an afternoon that had promised so much.

Even with Crossmaglen's Lauren McConville surprisingly left on the bench for the first time in her entire Orchard career, Armagh began brightly with the breeze behind them in Lorraine McCaffrey and Fionnuala McAtamney's first competitive match as joint managers.

A dream start saw them go 2-3 to 0-1 ahead by the 13th minute with Aoife McCoy and Aimee Mackin both raising green flags and the latter adding two points to the opener from her younger sibling Blaithin.

But the Orchard crew were wasteful with second quarter chances, Blaithin being the chief culprit, and a Tipperary goal just before half-time helped them narrow Armagh's interval lead to three points, not much cushion for facing into a strongish wind which was accompanied by steady drizzle throughout.

That visiting goal felt significant given that this ambitious, confident Tipp team, so used to winning albeit at a lower level, weren't going to need much encouragement to believe they had a very real chance of claiming a significant scalp.

They took their opportunity impressively but this has to go down as a disappointing performance from Armagh and an avoidable defeat in what was one of only three home matches in this campaign.

By blowing their opening game, Armagh have made life more difficult for themselves in this tight division and a quirk of fixtures means they now face four matches on the road before returning to Silverbridge at the end of March.

Sunday's sides were two divisions apart a year ago but this still looked like a potentially tough fixture for recently relegated Armagh against newly-promoted Tipp, who are hoping to emulate the Orchard's achievement of 2015 in winning Division Two at the first attempt.

Tipperary picked 13 of their run-on team from last September's All Ireland Intermediate decider in Croke Park to start here, including gangling All Star nominee Aisling Moloney, who proved a real handful for the Orchard defence.

The visitors scored the entire Lidl National League's opening point of 2018 but Clodagh McCambridge and McCoy combined before Blaithin Mackin equalised soon afterwards and then her All Star sister Aimee gave Armagh the lead following a nice move down the left.

The visiting keeper produced a brave block at McCoy's feet but the Dromintee dynamo still hit the net in the sixth minute and Aimee Mackin put Armagh five ahead with another point after the groundwork was done by returning duo Louise Kenny and Kelly Mallon.

Shane O'Neills skipper Kenny was making her first Armagh appearance since the 2015 NFL Division Two final, having ruptured her cruciate playing club camogie soon afterwards, while Mallon was sidelined all last season with tendon trouble.

Tipp didn't get their second score until just after Aimee Mackin's goal gave the hosts a healthy eight-point lead but Armagh's misses might have been punished swiftly only for a valuable block by Sarah Marley and a visiting wide.

Armagh got one more first half point, scored by McCoy after captain Caoimhe Morgan won the ball and Caroline O'Hanlon linked well with Mallon, but Orla O'Dwyer delivered a composed finish to Anna Carr's net in the 30th minute and Tipp tagged on a point to go in only four adrift.

Stalwart Sharon Reel, originally listed to start, replaced Marian McGuinness for the second half and, although Armagh got the first two points through Fionnuala McKenna and an Aimee Mackin free, both were quickly cancelled out.

Sub McConville should have had a free following a forceful run but then Armagh got pinned back into the wind and were hit with five quick-fire scores before a weak kick-out by Carr led to a goal for rampant Tipp, who added another point for good measure.

The Orchard women were suddenly five behind with nine minutes remaining and, although two more Mackin frees sandwiched McKenna's second point, it predictably proved a lost cause for frustrated Armagh, who must bounce back when facing former manager James Daly's Cavan at Breffni Park this Saturday at 5.15pm.

 

ARMAGH: A Carr, S Marley, C Morgan (capt), R O'Reilly, M Tennyson, L Kenny, C McCambridge, T Grimes, C O'Hanlon, F McKenna (0-2), K Mallon, B Mackin (0-1), A Mackin (1-5, 3f), A McCoy (1-2), M McGuinness.

Subs: S Reel for McGuinness (ht'), L McConville for B Mackin (38'), S Grey for Kenny (58'), McGuinness for Mallon (63').

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