Saturday 25 January 2020 at the Athletic Grounds
Armagh 2-18 Cavan 1-8
By Shaun Casey, The Sideline Eye
THE game was barely one minute old when Conor Turbitt began dropping the jaws of the home crowd. ‘Turbo’ lit up the opening five minutes, grabbing three points from his three touches, his first came after claiming an outstanding mark, raising above several defenders to capture possession.
This was a trend that continued throughout the remainder of the contest with the young Clann Eireann star finishing with a personal tally of 1-6. Armagh displayed a ruthless attacking philosophy that was extremely pleasing on the eye, driving forward with every opportunity while they had the men up top who were capable of putting away the chances.
There was little Cavan could do and the slickness of Armagh’s play caused serious problems all evening. Cavan’s late goal came after a debatable challenge on Blaine Hughes in the air but the game was well out of the Breffni men’s reach by the time the ball crossed the goal line.
The Orchard County will expect, and want, tough challenges heading down the tracks but Cavan’s poor showing shouldn’t take away from the positivity that will now surround the Armagh camp.
Paddy Burns made a welcomed return to his natural corner back position while Conor O’Neill impressed in the other corner. Both wing half backs, Cumiskey and Forker, bombed forward at every opportunity and the Maghery man really put the shackles on Martin Reilly.
In the middle Niall Grimley gave a good display, kicking an awesome point in the first period while Oisin O’Neill, who wore 12 but played in centre-field, was a constant pain in the Cavan rearguard, hitting three wonderful points.
It was hard to pick out a weakness in the Armagh attack. The full forward line hit 2-10 between them while Rory Grugan also claimed three points from centre half forward and worked seriously hard all evening long.
Cavan on the other hand were poor, and with five of their six defenders retaining their place from the side that Armagh dominated in the McKenna Cup, the Orchard County’s huge scoring return perhaps seems less surprising.
What would seem to be their two main scoring threats, Gearoid McKiernan and Martin Reilly, spent a lot of time in their own defence with Conor Madden often the only attacking force.
They opened their account through Bryan Magee while Oisin Kiernan travelled forward to cut the hosts lead to one. Oisin O’Neill beautifully curled over his sides 4th score before Aidan Forker finished off great run and assist from Rory Grugan.
Niall Grimley struck a fantastic long range effort as Grugan and Stefan Campbell got off the mark to fire their side into a six point lead after 20 minutes. Conor Madden and Conor Smith tagged on points for the visitors to ensure Cavan kept in touch.
Armagh continued to attack with great control and pace, Rory Grugan swinging over another score before turning provider, brilliantly reading Oisin O’Neill’s wayward shot to play in O’Neill who hit the target with his second attempt.
Cavan got the final point of the half with Bryan Magee splitting the posts from the dead ball to offer Cavan a slight glimmer of hope, although based on the first 35 minutes of action, anything other than a home victory would have been a surprise as Armagh were well in control at the interval, leading 0-10 to 0-5.
That ‘glimmer of hope’ soon became and overcastting shadow as Turbitt continued to torture the Cavan rearguard. A long range Oisin O’Neill effort fell just short of the target but Turbitt was on hand to coolly slot the ball to the back of the net and the game was well out of sight.
Armagh refused to take their foot off the pedal however and soon found themselves 11 points ahead, with the O’Neill brothers claiming a score each while Stefan Campbell stroked over another point for the hosts.
Gearoid McKiernan tried to rally his troops with his first score of the evening but his effort was soon cancelled out by another Rian O’Neill free, followed by a Rory Grugan score from the dead ball.
Turbitt once again raised a white flag and the green one once raised soon after. Blaine Hughes drove out a kick out following a failed Cavan attack and Niall Grimley’s delicate flick found Campbell isolated in the centre of the park.
Campbell drove the ball forward to the danger man Turbo, and his pass across the face of goal was palmed by Rian O’Neill into the path of the on running Jarly Og Burns, and Cavan could only halt Armagh’s free flowing move with a foul, resulting in a penalty kick.
Campbell stood up and confidently drove the ball down the centre of the goal with Armagh now 12 points ahead. Cavan replied with a fortunate goal of their own, Evan Doughty’s shot falling short into the square, where full back Padraig Faulkner got the final touch to see the ball over the line.
Turbitt would add two more points to his growing tally while Cavan replied with two points of their own. The scores mattered little at this stage as the crowd waited for the final whistle, that in truth could have came anytime in the second half without debate, such was the dominance of the home sides performance.
An away day next weekend could cause more problems than Armagh experienced in round one but there’s no doubt Armagh will be heading to Portlaoise with their heads high and chests out, confident of claiming a further two points.
Armagh: Blaine Hughes, Paddy Burns, Greg McCabe, Conor O’Neill, Callum Cumiskey, Brendan Donaghy, Aidan Forker (0-1), Niall Grimley (0-1), Stephen Sheridan, Jason Duffy, Rory Grugan (0-3), Oisin O’Neill (0-3), Conor Turbitt (1-6), Rian O’Neill (0-2), Stefan Campbell (1-2). Subs: Mark Shields for J. Duffy, Joe McElroy for Aidan Forker, Jarlath Og Burns for P. Burns, James Morgan for Callum Cumiskey, Jemar Hall for R. O’Neill.
Cavan: Raymond Galligan, Patrick Meade, Padraig Faulkner (0-1), Gerard Smith, Ciaran Brady, Benjamin Kelly, Oisin Kiernan (0-2), Killian Brady, Bryan Magee, Stephen Smith, Bryan Magee (0-1), Conor Smith (0-1), Martin Reilly, Gearoid McKiernan (0-2), Conor Madden (0-2). Subs: Evan Doughty for C. Madden, Oisin Pierson for C. Smith, James Smith for B. Magee, Chris Conroy for S. Smith