Armagh settle for share of the spoils against All-Ireland champions

Niamh O&rsquo;Sullivan of Meath tries to shake off the attentions of Armagh&rsquo;s Grace Ferguson at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park in Longford yesterday<br />Picture: Ben McShane/Sportsfile&nbsp;
Niamh O’Sullivan of Meath tries to shake off the attentions of Armagh’s Grace Ferguson at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park in Longford yesterday
Picture: Ben McShane/Sportsfile 

TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship Group B: Armagh 0-9 Meath 0-9

ARMAGH had to settle for a share of the spoils against All-Ireland champions Meath in an absorbing battle in Pearse Park yesterday.

The Ulster side led by three points, 0-9 to 0-6, with 20 minutes remaining but in the style of true champions, Meath showed real grit to get back on level terms with eight minutes remaining, with neither side able to grab a winner.

However, it will be Armagh who will probably feel they should have taken all three points, especially after missing chances in the final few minutes, including a couple of wides and another that saw Meath goalkeeper Monica McGuirk produce a fine save to deny captain Kelly Mallon a goal that would surely have sealed victory.

At the same time, though, how Armagh saw the game out in those final minutes, keeping possession to ensure Meath could not steal a winner, was impressive and this was certainly a performance the Orchard county can take away and build on as manager Ronan Murphy acknowledged.

“It’s good to get the first game out of the way and to get a point on the board. We did have chances at the end there so we are happy in one respect to get a draw but at the same time we had chances to win and didn’t take them,” said Ronan Murphy.

“Any day you get a draw against the All-Ireland champions we will take that and we will go again the next day against Monaghan.”

Armagh went full tilt at the champions right from the start and they led 0-3 to no score with less than 10 minutes gone, Aimee Mackin with a trio of white flags, including the game’s first score from a free in the fourth minute.

Orlagh Lally got Meath on the scoreboard in the 12th minute but Mallon cancelled that out and with Stacey Grimes (free) and Mackin trading scores the Ulster side still held a three point lead, 0-5 to 0-2, with 18 minutes gone.

Back-to-back Meath scores from Vikki Wall (free) and Emma Duggan reduced the deficit to the minimum with five minutes of the half remaining, before Mackin fired over her fifth point of the half to give Armagh a two point half-time advantage, 0-6 to 0-4.

Mallon (free) extended Armagh’s lead back out to three in the 37th minute but once again Meath hit a quick two in-a-row through Duggan (free) and Aoibheann Leahy to put the All-Ireland champions back to within one.

Armagh though responded with points from latest AFLW recruit Blaithin Mackin and Niamh Coleman to move three clear with 19 minutes remaining.

That, however, proved to be their final score as Meath came back at them once again and through Grimes (free), substitute Kelsey Nesbitt and Lally, they got back on level terms for the first time with eight minutes left.

Neither side would go on to find a winner but it was Armagh who created the better chances, Niamh Reel and Aimee Mackin both registering wides either side of that superb save from Allstar goalkeeper McGuirk, who got a strong hand to an effort by Mallon that could have dipped in behind her to the back of the net.

As Armagh continued to retain possession and try to find a way through a packed Meath defence, ultimately time ran out. They will now need a win, or at the very least a draw, against Monaghan next weekend to guarantee a quarter-final place but the champions are safely through to the knockout stages.