Allianz FL D2: Armagh promoted to Division 1
Allianz Football League Division
ARMAGH 1-18 CLARE 1-13
By Eoin Brennan at Cusack Park
Armagh kicked the last five points to finally secure the points and more importantly promotion to Division 1 of the Allianz National League in Cusack Park, Ennis this afternoon. With Clare equally craving victory at the other end of the table, the hosts defiantly clawed back a seven point deficit in the final quarter, only for Kieran McGeeney’s side to find an extra gear for the remainder through Oisin O’Neill (2), Rory Grugan, substitute Jarlath Óg Burns and Rian O’Neill.
Bridging a nine year gap, Armagh join Roscommon in the top flight for 2021 while despite defeat, Clare still managed to consolidate their Division 2 status after their victory over Cavan in March proved sufficient to send the Breffni County down to Division 3 alongside Fermanagh.
Crucially, Armagh were never headed over the 70 minutes after getting off to the perfect start when Rory Grugan’s quick free picked out the overlapping run of Callum Cumiskey to find the Clare net after only two minutes.
That early boost proved decisive as Armagh soared seven points clear nearing the water break, thanks in the main to braces from Rian O’Neill and Rory Grugan at 1-6 to 0-2. Clare did finally settle though and led by captain Eoin Cleary, incrementally lowered the deficit to just one by the break amidst spurned goal chances at either end for Cathal O’Connor and Greg McCabe at 1-7 to 0-9.
The same pattern greeted the new half as Armagh raced out of the blocks with four of the first five points, two from Rian O’Neill, to restore a four point cushion, only to be sucker-punched in the 48th minute when Gary Brennan’s high delivery broke perfectly to Cian O’Dea to billow the net from close range at 1-11 to 1-10.
With momentum now backing the Banner, Cleary twice matched points from Rian O’Neill and Jamie Clarke before Keelan Sexton eventually regained full parity for the home side by the 60th minute at 1-13 to 1-13.
However, when needed most, it was the visitors who responded best coming down the final straight as successive points for Oisin O’Neill in the 65th minute provided the catalyst to add three more insurance points and confirm Armagh's return to Division 1.
With a nine month National League finally completed, attentions quickly turn to championship, with away provincial quarter-final derbies for both imminent next Sunday when Armagh travel to Derry while Clare face Tipperary in Semple Stadium.
Scorers for Armagh: Rian O’Neill (0-6, 4f, 1’45); Oisin O’Neill (1m), Rory Grugan (0-3 each); Callum Cumiskey (1-0); Stephen Sheridan, Conor O’Neill, Jason Duffy, Stefan Campbell, Jamie Clarke, Jarlath Óg Burns (0-1 each)
Scorers for Clare: Eoin Cleary (0-8, 6f); Keelan Sexton (0-3, 1f, 1’45); Cian O’Dea (1-0); Gary Brennan, Jamie Malone (0-1 each)
ARMAGH: Blaine Hughes; Aidan Forker, Ryan Kennedy, Paddy Burns; Stephen Sheridan, Mark Shields, James Morgan; Niall Grimley, Rian O’Neill; Rory Grugan, Callum Cumiskey, Conor O’Neill; Jamie Clarke, Oisin O’Neill, Jason Duffy. *Subs: *Greg McCabe for Shields (34), Stefan Campbell for Duffy (HT), Jarlath Óg Burns for Cumiskey (41), Cathal McKenna for Grimley (50), Conor Turbitt for Clarke (64)
CLARE: Eamonn Tubridy; Gordon Kelly, Cillian Brennan, Eoghan Collins; Alan Sweeney, Aaron Fitzgerald, Pearse Lillis; Cathal O’Connor, Gary Brennan; Jamie Malone, Eoin Cleary, Ciaran Russell; Keelan Sexton, Joe McGann, Cian O’Dea. *Subs: *Sean Collins for Fitzgerald (44), David Tubridy for Russell (44), Podge Collins for McGann (58), Kevin Harnett for E. Collins (67), Gearoid O’Brien for O’Connor (70)
Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary)