Orchard stand-ins help Grimley’s men stay alive

Armagh 0-14 Monaghan 0-14

Orchard stand-ins help Grimley’s men stay alive

The declaration was naturally greeted with a rousing cheer in the immediate wake of their team pulling off what had appeared, with five minutes of normal time remaining, to be a forlorn cause.

But the question is just how difficult will Brendan Donaghy, Andy Mallon and Kieran Toner find it to return to the first team in Sunday’s replay in Clones after this act of defiance?

Of the trio that came in for the suspended players, Aaron Kernan will be hard to shift, Stefan Campbell was arguably Armagh’s best player, although Aidan Forker appeared to have picked up an injury.

Clearly buoyed by what they interpreted as unjust punishments emanating from the Cavan game, Armagh were the better side in a drawn first half, 0-6 apiece. Although, for the majority of what was remaining they were chasing.

Three points up in the 65th minute, a more clinical Monaghan were going about killing the clock when a classy Jamie Clarke score cut the gap to two and then Campbell matched him in the first minute of injury time.

Monaghan had genuine calls for a penalty turned down when Chris McGuinness appeared to be felled after he was found by a majestic Kieran Hughes foot-pass from distance.

But Armagh survived and it was a combination of the roving Ciarán McKeever and Aaron Kernan that set up Rory Grugan to ultimately tie up the game. Kernan appeared to have lost control of the ball but Joe McQuillan adjudged the reason for that was Ryan Wylie’s tug on the Armagh defender’s jersey.

In the context of the game, Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke was unhappy with the decision. “From where I was — I admit I wasn’t in the best spot — I couldn’t see a free. I thought it was a very innocuous free.

“I thought we were defending well, we were a point up, the game was over. It was a very soft free to give against us and very annoying at that stage of the game. It’s very hard to take.”

The Armagh throngs in the 18,886 crowd celebrated the score like it was a winning one. It would have felt like one after losing a fifth of their team for this encounter.

To Paul Grimley, it might have felt like justice too. We can only guess, though, as he declined interview requests following the game.

Going by the words of his selector Peter McDonnell just before throw-in, the camp felt the media had played their role in damning Armagh’s role in Paradegate. Siege mentalities have been built on stronger foundations.

Armagh, though, will be boosted by snuffing out the fire of the reigning provincial champions. Campbell and Jamie Clarke looked sharp against quality man-markers in Drew Wylie and Colin Walshe, while Charlie Vernon had possibly his best day at full-back.

Monaghan will appreciate they have to learn to kill off games. But for Niall Morgan’s missed free, they would have been brought to a replay in their quarter-final. Here, they weren’t so fortunate.

Armagh did kick 12 wides to their opponents’ nine but the majority of the visitors’ scores came from play compared to Monaghan, who converted just five from play. But for Rory Beggan’s accuracy from the dead ball, O’Rourke’s side could have been in serious trouble.

And yet after coming to grips with Armagh’s blanket defence (they themselves deployed two sweepers on occasions), Monaghan were the stronger outfit going into the final five minutes, three unanswered scores from Kieran Hughes, Beggan and McGuinness nudging them towards victory. That they didn’t see it out was obviously a disappointment for O’Rourke, who admitted it was a below-par performance.

“We went in as favourites and all week it was whether Armagh would have the missing players back and so on.

“We prepared well, we didn’t get to the grips of the game as we would have liked at times. We probably weren’t as dynamic as we were in previous games.

“Every day you go out you don’t play the way you want. In one way we’re glad to get another chance, we know it’s going to be a massive battle again and Armagh will probably have the three players back, but it’s all to play for.”

Scorers for Armagh: J Clarke, S Campbell, T Kernan (2f) 0-3 each; M Shields, A Forker, K Dyas, S Forker, R Grugan (f) 0-1 each.

Scorers for Monaghan: R Beggan 0-5 (5f); K Hughes, C McManus (1f), S Gollogly (1f) 0-2 each; J McCarron (f), D Clerkin, C McGuinness 0-1 each.

ARMAGH: P McEvoy; J Morgan, C Vernon, C McKeever; F Moriarty, M Shields, A Kernan; E Rafferty, A Findon; E McVerry, K Dyas, A Forker; K Carragher, J Clarke, S Campbell.

MONAGHAN: R Beggan; D Wylie, C Walshe, K Duffy; D Mone, V Corey, F Kelly; D Clerkin, D Hughes; J McCarron, P Donaghy, D Malone; R Wylie, K Hughes, C McManus.

Subs for Armagh: T Kernan for K Carragher (black, 21); S Harold for E Rafferty (49); S Forker for A Forker (inj, 54); R Grugan for E McVerry (57); M Murray for F Moriarty (66).

Subs for Monaghan: S Gollogly for J McCarron (h-t); C McGuinness for C McManus (black, 45); P McKenna for P Donaghy (51); P Finlay for D Malone (64); K O’Connell for F Kelly (70+1).

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).

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