Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 4B: Armagh 0-18 Meath 0-13
Armagh are through to the All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals for the first time since 2008 after a comprehensive victory over Meath in Croke Park.
The Orchard County were the dominant side throughout and only for a wobble before half-time, when they conceded five unanswered points in as many minutes, they were comfortable front-runners from early on against a floundering Meath side.
Aidan Forker and Stefan Campbell each scored three points from play for Armagh who were full value for their five-point win.
Meath, who have now lost fourth round qualifiers three years in a row, started brightly with Andrew Tormey and Mickey Newman (free) kicking the opening two scores. That was the only time the Royals led in the game.
Despite this being Armagh’s first championship game in Croke Park in four years, their young side settled quickly and completely took over and scored eight points in a row in the next 22 minutes.
Jamie Clarke opening Armagh’s account after seven minutes after a bad mistake by Meath goalkeeper Paddy O’Rourke gifted him an easy point.
Aidan Forker caused the Meath defence huge problems running from deep with the ball and picking off three nice scores with his left foot.
Kyle Carragher and Stefan Campbell also scored from play with Tony Kernan converting two frees as Armagh raced into a 0-8 to 0-2 lead after 29 minutes.
Armagh’s work-rate and tackling forced Meath into a number of turnovers and the damage could have been even greater had the orchard county not dropped five attempts at points short into O’Rourke’s hands.
Both sides were shorn of defensive leaders, with Meath captain Kevin Reilly a surprise absentee along with Armagh skipper Ciaran McKeever who suffered an ankle injury midweek.
Mickey Newman ended a 24-minute scoring drought with a much-needed free for the struggling Royals in the 31st minute and Damien Carroll tagged on a score from out wide soon after.
Shane O’Rourke was a late inclusion in the starting team at midfield with Brian Meade moved to wing-forward picking up Aaron Kernan. Meade struggled and was replaced by Graham Reilly who made an immediate impact, scoring a point with his first touch to really ignite Meath’s fightback.
David Bray converted a difficult free after Brian McMahon dispossessed James Morgan and Newman, who had earlier cracked a shot off the crossbar, landed a ’45’ to close the deficit to 0-8 to 0-7 at the break.
The half-time whistle was a relief to Armagh, who saw most of their first-half work eroded in the five minutes before the interval as Meath racked up five points in a row to get themselves back in the game.
Graham Reilly levelled the scores 25 minutes after the restart and Paddy O’Rourke tied the scores again at 0-10 apiece after 41 minutes.
From there Armagh went on another scoring spree and hit the next five points, Stefan Campbell, Aaron Kernan and Kevin Dyas among the scorers, to take the game away from a shapeless and leaderless Meath side.
Meath failed to score for 21 minutes and only managed two points from play, both from Graham Reilly, in a poor second half display.
Armagh substitute Brian Mallon hit two late points as Paul Grimley’s side coasted through to the last eight, and a clash against either Donegal or Dublin next Saturday.
Scorers for Armagh: A Forker 0-3, T Kernan 0-3 (2f), S Campbell 0-3, A Kernan 0-2, B Mallon 0-2, J Clarke 0-1, S Campbell 0-1, K Carragher 0-1, M Shields 0-1, S Forker 0-1
Scorers for Meath: M Newman 0-4 (3f, one ’45’), G Reilly 0-3, D Bray 0-2 (1f), P O’Rourke 0-2 (2f), A Tormey 0-1, D Carroll 0-1
ARMAGH: P McEvoy; J Morgan, C Vernon, A Mallon; M Shields, B Donaghy, A Kernan; S Harold, A Findon; A Forker, K Dyas, T Kernan; K Carragher, S Campbell, J Clarke. Subs: M Murray for Morgan (HT), R Grugan for Carragher (56), B Mallon for A Forker (60), S Forker for T Kernan (68), F Moriarty for Donaghy (70).
MEATH: P O’Rourke; M Burke, D Tobin, D Keogan; B Menton, P Harnan, D Carroll; S O’Rourke, A Flanagan; B Meade, B McMahon, A Tormey; D Bray, S Bray, M Newman. Subs: G Reilly for Meade (31), E Harrington for Carroll (52), D McDonagh for S Bray (58), J Wallace for D Bray (61), P Gilsenan for McDonagh (63), B Meade for S O’Rourke (65).
REFEREE: Rory Hickey (Clare)
Report: Orla Bannon
Photos by John Merry