Hurling & Camogie

Armagh improve but Roscommon still prove too strong for Karl McKeegan's men

Mickey Joe Egan scored 1-5 as Roscommon claimed the Division 3A title with a win over Armagh
Mickey Joe Egan scored 1-5 as Roscommon claimed the Division 3A title with a win over Armagh Mickey Joe Egan scored 1-5 as Roscommon claimed the Division 3A title with a win over Armagh

Allianz Hurling League Division 3A Final: Roscommon 2-17 Armagh 0-15

It wasn’t the 20-point hammering that they endured at DrHyde Park during the round robin stages of this competition, but Armagh still found Roscommon just too good on Saturday afternoon in the Division 3A final, and so Karl McKeegan’s men will spend at least one more year this fifth tier of Allianz League competition.

“After that game in Roscommon we had a good final round win over Fermanagh, we had a great performance last week against Monaghan so I knew we had turned a corner. We knuckled down and were feeling really good coming here today”, McKeegan said after the game, though he lamented his side’s failure to take any of their goal chances.

Tomás Galvin was brilliantly denied by Roscommon goalkeeper Enda Lawless on two occasions in the first half, while in the second half, Eoin McGuinness could quite force the ball over the line in a scramble on the edge of the small square, and Tiarnán Nevin also dropped a handpass when a quick grab and turn would have left him with a free shot from ten metres out.

“We had a few good goal chances, and you need a couple of goals to win big games like this and to be competitive” said McKeegan.

“If we had got one or two of those chances, they came at good times and they would have pushed us on. You need that wee bit of luck and we didn’t get that day”.

The Orchard men were put on the back foot from the early stages of this tie, as a goal from Conor Mulry and two outstanding points from Mickey Joe Egan gave the Connacht county a flying start with the aid of the breeze.

Armagh steadied the ship from there, however, and while they were hugely limited up front, with Fionntán Donnelly their only scorer in the first half (five frees, one late point from play), Armagh did a lot better defensively. Barry Shortt, who was sent off in the Hyde, was in excellent form in defence, with Nevin holding strong at centre back too.

“We started slow and Roscommon did all the hurling, so even though we were six points down, we had the wind to come and I felt we were still in it. I asked for a big ten minutes but we never cut the lead down to three or four, Roscommon were always able to come back and get that point or two at the other end,” McKeegan said.

That lack of momentum proved fatal, as they simply never got any great scoring rhythm going. Missed chances continued to haunt Armagh, while at the other end, Paddy Fallon, Mickey Joe Egan and Eoin Fitzgerald were in outstanding form.

They struck some wonderful points, with Fallon also setting up Egan for a goal in the 69th minute that made life much more comfortable for the winners through ten minutes of stoppage time.

Looking ahead to a rematch in the Nickey Rackard Cup on Sunday week, McKeegan said:

“I don’t think there’s eight points in the game, we’re definitely closer. Obviously, Roscommon will start as favourites but we’ll work hard over the next two weeks and we’ll travel in good form, believing we’re capable of getting a win."

Roscommon: E Lawless; D Mullen, M Ward, T Fleming; D Finn, C Cosgrove, E Flanagan; E Fitzgerald (0-2), E Mulry; MJ Egan (1-5, 0-1f), A Donnelly (0-2), B Mulry; P Fallon (0-7, 0-3 frees), N Connaughton (0-1), C Mulry (1-0).

Subs: P Brennan for Fleming (42), J Brennan for Mulry (53), S Dowd for Connaughton (55), J Dowling for Fitzgerald (66), J Naughton for Fallon (70+8).

Yellow cards: C Mulry, Fleming.

Armagh: F Woods; B Shortt (0-1 free), S McPartland, O McCann; P Lappin, T Nevin (0-1), N Lennon; O Curry, P McBride; C Jennings (0-1), D Magee, F Donnelly (0-9, 0-8f); C Reneghan, T Galvin (0-1), S Harvey.

Subs: O O’Hare for McCann (55), E McGuinness for Magee (55), P Garvey for Donnelly (69), T O’Hare (0-2f) for Harvey (70), T McKavanagh for Jennings (70+5).

Referee: J Connors (Donegal)