Armagh take giant step towards redemption

Armagh 2-21 Wicklow 0-02

Armagh take giant step towards redemption

That’s precisely the length of time it took Armagh to bury any aspirations Wicklow entertained of building on their encouraging performance against Meath in the Leinster Championship.

And by the same token in that all-too-brief period of time the Orchard County regained a fraction of the credibility lost in a dire Ulster preliminary round defeat by Cavan.

A Jamie Clarke goal from a second-minute penalty and another by the same player two minutes later that resulted from a defensive mix-up were immediately complemented by a Kevin Dyas point which effectively removed any competitive edge that the tie might have offered. Thereafter Armagh enjoyed a stroll in the park, scoring virtually at will and restricting their visitors to just two points.

If Clarke’s opportunism, the creativity of Dyas, the leadership of skipper Ciaran McKeever and the sublime accuracy of Tony Kernan and Eugene McVerry underpinned this runaway Armagh success, then the renewed team spirit fostered by manager Paul Grimley proved a major factor in what was essentially a giant stride towards redemption after the Breffni blow.

“We needed this performance to signify progress, anything less would have been catastrophic,” said Grimley. “We worked very hard over the six-week period since we lost to Cavan during which we played four challenge matches and won three of them totting up big scores in the process. Now we have managed to get another big score against Wicklow and we can look forward to our next championship outing.”

By half-time Armagh had assembled a 2-14 to 0-2 lead, Clarke having already confirmed his Man of the Match status and every player in the attack having been on target.

Wicklow, devoid of possession in the middle third of the park, simply had no answer to Armagh’s pace, power and penetration and it was not until the 26th minute that they landed their first score through Joey Kelly.

Their second came from corner-back Alan Byrne a few minutes later but by then it was game over.

Tony Kernan, Clarke and McVerry heaped more ignominy on Wicklow after the break leaving visiting manager Harry Murphy clearly shell-shocked.

Murphy said: “I didn’t see this coming. We felt we had worked hard before coming here. We knew Armagh would come at us strongly but after we conceded those couple of early goals the game was over. I think if we had been able to field 30 lads we might still have been beaten given the way that Armagh played. They just blew us away.”

Scorers for Armagh: J Clarke (2-3), T Kernan (0-5, two frees), E McVerry (0-4), M Shields, C Rafferty (0-2 each), B Donaghy, S Harold, K Dyas, E Rafferty, S Campbell (0-1 each).

Scorers for Wicklow: J Kelly, A Byrne (0-1 each).

Subs for Armagh: F Moriarty for Donaghy (42 mins), S Campbell for Dyas (49), B Mallon for T Kernan (53), J Hanratty for Harold (56), R Grugan for Clarke (60).

Subs for Wicklow: N Mernagh for Kelly (26 mins), J Sheerin for Finn (h/t), L Benson for Hayden (h/t), B Coden for McLoughlin (h/t), A O’Malley for Earls (57).

ARMAGH: P McEvoy; P McKeown, B Donaghy, J Morgan; A Kernan; C McKeever, M Shields; J Lavery, S Harold; C Rafferty, K Dyas, E Rafferty; J Clarke, T Kernan, E McVerry.

WICKLOW: J Flynn; C Hyland, D Power, A Byrne; D Hayden, P McWalter, D Healy; A McLoughlin, R Finn; D O’Sullivan, J Stafford, J Kelly; J McGrath, S Furlong, P Earls.

Referee: Derek Fahy (Longford).

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