RELIEVED and content, Armagh selector Kieran Donaghy wasn’t going to let the opportunity go by without acknowledging that their opening league points against Monaghan were helped by a gift of a goal.
When Monaghan looked well on top, the game lurched in a different direction when Rory Beggan’s kickout went straight to Tiernan Kelly. Kelly’s shot wasn’t hit with conviction and Beggan got back on. his line, but then a slip caused it to eventually cross the line.
“When it wasn’t really going well for them in the first half, they could have thrown in the towel at times but they stuck together and kept going,” explained ‘Star.’
“I think Tiernan Kelly’s goal was huge, when it happened and how it happened, to give us a bit of a lift momentum-wise.
“Monaghan came fighting back again in the second half, but I’m just delighted to come out of here. Whether it’s Clones, or I’ve been above in Scotstown and Inniskeen, I’ve never been to Blayney before, but just to come out of Monaghan with two points is really what the goal of the prep was for the last few weeks and I’m just delighted to do that.”
The goal allowed both teams to go in at the break level, 1-4 to 0-7. And then Armagh clipped over a brisk six consecutive points in eight minutes to show that they will take a fair bit of watching this year.
Monaghan’s response was a point from Conor McCarthy, then McCarthy then won and converted a penalty in the following minute to cut the lead back to two points.
But missing Conor McManus and Darren Hughes on the night, with Jack McCarron sustaining a hamstring injury in the very first minute, and Ryan McAnespie off travelling, they couldn’t get back on equal terms.
“The damage was done straight after half-time,” said Oriel boss Vinny Corey in his first competitive game as manager.
“There was a mixture of turnovers around the middle and being pressed hard on our kickout. All of a sudden, Armagh have reeled off six points on the trot.
“That was the turning point. Credit to our boys, we got it back to a one-point game, we missed a few chances and Armagh had the firepower.”
As for the missing Conor McManus, “He has an ongoing hip injury and we are giving him time to manage the pain. We would hope he is back in full training over the next few weeks. He has to manage himself at this stage.” Everything changes, and Kieran Donaghy is amazed at the change from when you could ease yourself into the year. With their first Championship game on April 9th, this league is all-in, from the start.
“I think the games have taken on far more pressure and responsibility from when I was playing league football,” recalled Donaghy.
“Especially the first few games, you were just getting back on track. But league football is so competitive now, especially Division One, that there’s pressure going into this game.
“But at this stage of the year it’s about getting through the games injury free and obviously trying to get a few wins and results along the way to build the confidence of the players. But I don’t think at this stage you can think any further than the next game, because every level of competition in Division One is serious, so you have to give them the respect they deserve.”
They now face Mayo in the Athletic Grounds on Sunday, while Monaghan face the long hike to Kerry hoping for a miracle with Jack McCarron’s hamstring.
C McCarthy (1-2, 1-0xpen, 0-1f), M Bannigan (0-4, 1f), S O’Hanlon (0-2), R Beggan (0-1f), D Ward, S Carey, S Jones (0-1 each)
R O’Neill (0-4, 1f, 1m), T Kelly (1-0), S Campbell, A Nugent (0-2 each), A Murnin (0-2, 1m), R McQuillan, E Rafferty (0-1 each), S Sheridan (0-1m), R Grugan (0-1f)
R Beggan; T McPhilips, K Duffy, R Wylie; C Boyle, D Ward, K Loughran; K Lavelle, C Lennon; S O’Hanlon, M Bannigan, J Wilson; C McCarthy, J McCarron, S Carey
S Jones for McCarron (4 mins), K O’Connell for Lennon (HT), S Slevin for Loughran (72 mins)
E Rafferty; A McKay, A Forker, R Finn; C O’Neill, B McCambridge; J Óg Burns; S Sheridan, S Campbell; J Hall, R Grugan, T Kelly; R O’Neill, A Murnin, A Nugent
J Duffy for Hall (HT), N Grimley for Sheridan (59mins), R McQuillan for Murnin (65m)
Sean Hurson (Tyrone)