Armagh edge Monaghan to set up Donegal date

Armagh's Aidan Forker and Monaghan's Barry Kerr duel at the Athletic Grounds Picture by Declan Roughan
Armagh's Aidan Forker and Monaghan's Barry Kerr duel at the Athletic Grounds Picture by Declan Roughan

Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Section B: Armagh 0-13 Monaghan 1-9

ARMAGH made it three wins from three at the start of the new season to move into this weekend’s Dr McKenna Cup semi-finals after a strong second half performance saw them edge past Monaghan at the Athletic Grounds last night.

The Orchardmen are into the last four of the pre-season competition for the second year running, and will face Donegal on Sunday afternoon as Kieran McGeeney’s side build towards the start of their Division Two campaign in Kildare on January 27.

In a match delayed by 13 minutes, Armagh raised the first roar of the night after 20 seconds when Mark Shields galloped forward to slot over.

However, they didn’t trouble the scoreboard again until the 20th minute after a passive display that was punished by the visitors.

Read more:Tyrone beat Fermanagh in turgid game to reach McKenna Cup semi-finals

Carrickmacross corner-forward Stephen O’Hanlon gave an early indication of his searing pace when he picked the picked the ball up on the 40 and burst past four men in orange jerseys before being felled by Ryan Kennedy in the square.

The Ballymacnab man was duly yellow carded for his indiscretion, and Jack McCarron made no mistake with the penalty, sending Blaine Hughes the wrong way to put the Farneymen into the early ascendancy.

Armagh weren’t pressing with any intensity, allowing Monaghan to build from deep before catching the Orchard rearguard on the hop with probing balls into the corner, David Garland in particular proving a handful.

He was fouled twice by Connaire Mackin, leading to two quickfire frees, dispatched by Jack McCarron and Thomas Kerr.

Kerr was involved in Monaghan’s third point of the evening when his clever short free found Garland in acres of space and he made no mistake 25 metres out, right in front of the posts.

Read more:Donegal stay unbeaten in McKenna Cup campaign

Captain Rory Grugan ended Armagh’s scoreless spell before his brother Jack was withdrawn 20 minutes in, replaced by Jamie Clarke as McGeeney shook things up among his forwards.

Another McCarron score, after selling Shields a sublime dummy, extended Monaghan’s lead but the Orchardmen rallied towards the end of the first half.

They reeled off three scores in-a-row through Stephen Sheridan and two from Stefan Campbell, who was beginning to find a bit of space to showcase his skills, before a Rory Beggan free sent Monaghan in 1-5 to 0-5 up at the break.

Just as they had in the first though, Armagh came out of the blocks quickly again, with a Clarke run stopped by Vinny Corey, leaving Niall Grimley to close the gap to two from the free.

All of a sudden it was Monaghan who were looking edgy, giving away possession sloppily as Armagh reeled off another three points on the bounce to move ahead in the 43rd minute.

It was Aidan Forker who stepped up to the plate with two points in the space of a minute, the first profiting from a spilled ball by Fintan Kelly, before another Grimley free.

Clarke landed his only point of the night to make it 0-10 to 1-6 and the Orchardmen carved out a goal chance minutes later when neat build-up play involving Clarke and Forker left Sheridan with the opportunity, but his shot was well blocked by Ryan Wylie.

Rory Beggan was typically unerring from frees as the game went tit-for-tat heading down the stretch, with scores from corner-back Kennedy and Rian O’Neill again moving Armagh ahead 13 minutes from the end.

Clarke was soon in the thick of the action again, first storming past Farney veteran Vinny Corey to leave an easy score for Campbell 11 minutes from the end in what turned out to be the last point of the night.

The Crossmaglen ace didn’t finish the game on the pitch however, picking up a second yellow for a push on Owen Duffy, but the Orchardmen held on to book their date with Donegal.

Armagh: B Hughes; R Kennedy (0-1), A McKay, C Mackin; M Shields (0-1), G McCabe, A Forker (0-2); S Sheridan (0-1), C Vernon; N Grimley (0-2, 0-1 free), R Grugan (0-1), J Og Burns; S Campbell (0-3), J Grugan, R O’Neill (0-1)

Subs: J Clarke (0-1) for J Grugan (20), J McElroy for Vernon (55), P Casey for Sheridan (68)

Yellow cards: R Kennedy (2), J Clarke (21, 68), G McCabe (65)

Red card: J Clarke (68)

Monaghan: R Beggan (0-3, frees); John McCarron, C Boyle, R Wylie; K Duffy, B Kerr, G Doogan; J Mealiff, F Kelly; T Kerr (0-1, free), Jack McCarron (1-3, 0-1 pen, 0-1 free), D Malone; D Garland (0-1), D Freeman, S O’Hanlon

Subs: V Corey (0-1) for Mealiff (h-t), O Duffy for Freeman (43), M Bannigan for Kerr (56), D Mone for John McCarron (61), D Wylie for Doogan (61)

Black card: T Kerr (29)

Referee: B Cassidy (Derry)

Att: 3,461