Allianz FL D2: Hard-fought win for Armagh over Kildare
Allianz Football League Division Two
ARMAGH 0-16 KILDARE 0-10
By Michael Devlin at the Athletic Grounds
Any two points earned in Division Two are a precious commodity, but not many will have come as tough as the pair Armagh pocketed in tonight’s arduous contest at the Athletic Grounds.
3,349 hardy souls braved the elements to witness Kieran McGeeney’s men topple adversity and record a six point victory over Kildare in the midst of ferocious Storm Ciara.
Under driving wind and rain, both teams were striving to get back to winning ways within the minefield that is Division Two.
Following opening weekend wins, Armagh were turned over by Laois last day out while Kildare lost by the bare minimum to Clare.
So after much doubt throughout the day the surface in Armagh was deemed playable after two pre-match inspections, but with a fierce gale blowing straight into Kildare goal in the first half, this was always going to be a typical game of two halves.
A monster kickout from Kildare goalkeeper Mark Donnellan however managed to defy that gust to travel onto the path of Paul Moolick, and he duly split the posts to cancel out an earlier point from a mark from Aidan Nugent in the opening stages.
Keeping a hold of possession was a major challenge for both teams in the punishing conditions, and often the game consisted of players scrambling around the wet turf after the ball.
Kildare though were performing admirably against the breeze, and David Hyland and Kevin Feely were making the hard yards around the middle in the opening quarter as Armagh struggled to assert themselves.
A huge goal chance presented itself to the hosts in the 16th minute however when Jarly Og Burns played Nugent straight through on goal, but the Cullyhanna man’s initial effort and follow-up were both spurned by Donnellan.
Stefan Campbell and Niall Grimley did find the target minutes later to move Armagh ahead 0-3 to 0-1, but the Lilywhites could have boosted their total with Jimmy Hyland and Mick O’Grady miscuing chances that would have been simple scores on another night.
Mistakes were inevitable however, and when Armagh seized on a Kildare attempt to build from the back Rian O’Neill looked certain to rifle the net, only for a heroic diving block from Peter Kelly to deny the forward.
Armagh though were intent on making the most of the wind advantage before the turnaround, and Aidan Forker, Oisín O’Neill and Campbell all registered eye-catching scores before sub Jamie Clarke clipped over two points to give the home side a seven point lead at the halfway point.
Next it was Kidare’s turn with the wind, but Armagh burst out of the blocks in the opening seconds of the second half.
An attack down the left-hand side closed in on the goalmouth, only for the ball to roll across the line and somehow stay out before Rian O’Neill blasted over from the deck.
Stephen Sheridan then burst through and another goal chance looked on, but he opted to take the point.
More drama came moments later when Clarke, who received a yellow card for his role in a halftime skirmish, got another booking and was sent to the line by referee David Coldrick.
Armagh were still relentless though, and they tagged on another two points through Nugent and Rian O’Neill to extend their lead to 11 points.
Despite that big margin, Kildare were now a man up with the roaring wind, and they began their comeback challenge with a Paddy Brophy score from play and two frees from the newly introduced Adam Tyrell.
Daniel Flynn then swivelled and curled over a beauty of a score in the 52nd minute, and gap was down to seven.
Armagh though managed to stymie any building Kildare momentum with a brilliant Rian O’Neill free that helped settle the game down momentarily.
Ten minutes were left on the clock when Kildare got back on the scoreboard, Paul Cribbin and Tyrell both on target, but again Armagh were able to come down the field and find another invaluable score, this time Mark Shields with a well-worked point.
Sub Jack Robinson and Paddy Brophy had late points for Kildare, but Armagh were holding them off expertly and another driving free from Rian O’Neill kept them in control.
Greg McCabe nearly topped the cake with icing right at the end, but Donnellan produced a fantastic save from close range.
It did nothing to detract from the massive performance put in by Armagh, who rode out the remaining moments of the game for a priceless win.
Scorers for Armagh: Rian O’Neill 0-4 (2f), Aidan Nugent 0-2 (1mark), Jamie Clarke 0-2 (1f), Stefan Campbell 0-2, Aidan Forker 0-1, Stephen Sheridan 0-1, Niall Grimley 0-1, Oisin O’Neill 0-1, Callum Cumiskey 0-1, Mark Shields 0-1.
Scorers for Kildare: Paddy Brophy 0-3, Adam Tyrell 0-3 (2f), Paul Cribbin 0-2, Daniel Flynn 0-1, Jack Robinson 0-1.
ARMAGH: Blaine Hughes; Paddy Burns, Aidan Forker, Jarly Og Burns; Conor O’Neill, Stephen Sheridan, Joe McElroy; Niall Grimley, Oisin O’Neill; Callum Cumiskey, Stefan Campbell, Mark Shields; Conor Turbitt, Rian O’Neill, Aidan Nugent.
SUBS: Jamie Clarke for C. Turbitt (27), James Morgan for C. O’Neill (45), Greg McCabe for A. Nugent (67), Brendan Donaghy for M. Shields (69), Aaron McKay for C. Cumiskey (71).
KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Con Kavanagh, Mick O’Grady, Peter Kelly; Kevin Flynn, Shea Ryan, David Hyland; Kevin Feely, Tommy Moolick; Paul Cribbin, Paddy Brophy, Keith Cribbin; Niall Kelly, Daniel Flynn, Jimmy Hyland.
SUBS: Neil Flynn for M O’Grady (HT), Johnny Byrne for C. Kavanagh (45), Adam Tyrell for J. Hyland (49), Jack Robinson for T. Moolick (56).
Referee: David Coldrick (An Mhí).