By John Fogarty
Jamie Clarke was in sublime form as Armagh marched into next Saturday’s All-Ireland quarter-final against Dublin or Tyrone, the draw for which will be made on RTÉ radio tomorrow afternoon (3.40pm), writes John Fogarthy.
His Crossmaglen Rangers club-mate Jamie Morgan was impressive in keeping Daniel Flynn quiet at the back too but it was Clarke who was most prominent in this win, guiding his team after Kildare has snuck ahead in the 56th minute.
A 38,900 Croke Park crowd, dominated by Armagh fans, watched on as Clarke equalised, Rory Grugan converted a free and then Brendan Donaghy surged forward to belt over a point to double Armagh’s advantage. A Kevin Feely free cut that difference but the midfielder inexplicably missed one to level it in the 66th minute. Taking advantage from the following kick-out, substitute Ethan Rafferty sent over a majestic point and then Clarke claimed a free, which Niall Grimley sent over. Kildare could muster no reply.
Armagh were breaking with pace and purpose and lead by two points on a couple of occasions inside the first 13 minutes. Kildare were at sixes and sevens at the back and an Aidan Forker score made it 0-6 to 0-3 after 18 minutes. That wasn’t before Kildare goalkeeper Mark Donnellan was fortunate to escape with a yellow card after barrelling Andrew Murnin out of the way after missing a 16th minute point.
Over-eager far too often in the opening quarter Kildare were back on level terms by the 28th minute when Paddy Brophy angled over a point after Niall Kelly and Feely from a free had done similar. And the Leinster runners-up took the lead when Ben McCormack bisected the posts with a 29th minute effort although they had kicked six wides to Armagh’s two, hit the posts twice and sent a couple short.
But just when Kildare’s backs seemed to be getting on top Armagh broke a 12-minute scoring drought through Stefan Campbell and they breached Donnellan’s goal-line in the 31st minute when Grugan fed Murnin and he followed up his deflected shot to raise the green flag. Gavin McParland added a point and Kildare were hit for 1-2 in three minutes although Kelly kicked his second point to leave three points between the teams at the break, 1-8 to 0-8.
A. Murnin (1-1); J. Clarke (0-4); G. McParland (0-3); R. Grugan, N. Grimley (0-2, 1 free each); A. Forker, S. Campbell, J. McElroy, B. Donaghy, E. Rafferty (0-1 each).
K. Feely (0-5, frees), P. Brophy (0-3); N. Kelly, K. Cribbin, F. Conway (0-2 each); M. Donnellan (free), B. McCormack, D. Flynn (0-1 each).
B. Hughes; J. Morgan, P. Hughes; B. Donaghy; A. McKay, M. Shields, A. Forker; S. Sheridan, N. Grimley; R. Grugan (c), S. Campbell, C. Vernon; J. Clarke, A. Murnin, G. McParland.
J. McElroy for A. McKay (38); C. O’Hanlon for A. Forker (45); E. Rafferty for A. Murnin (inj 48); O. O’Neill for S. Campbell (49); A. Duffy for R. Grugan (64)
M. Donnellan; P. Kelly, M. O’Grady, O. Lyons; D. Hyland; K. Cribbin, J. Byrne, D. Slattery; K. Feely (c), P. Cribbin; F. Conway, N. Kelly, B. McCormack; P. Brophy, D. Flynn.
C. McNally for B. McCormack (45); F. Dowling for D. Slattery (51); M. Hyland for P. Kelly (56); C. O’Donoghue for K. Cribbin (black, 59); E. O’Callaghan for N. Kelly (64); T. Moolick for D. Flynn (68).
D. O’Mahoney (Tipperary).