Armagh hurlers made the long journey to Aughrim on Sunday to face Christy Ring Cup side, Wicklow, on their home patch.
While the hosts opened the scoring, their lead was short-lived as a long-range Nathan Curry free was flicked to the net by Armagh captain, Cahal Carvill. Declan Coulter followed up with a point from play, but Diarmuid Masterson added another couple of scores for the Wicklow men from a dead ball. Armagh, however, were well on top during the first half right across the field and played at a championship pace that Wicklow were simple unable to match and three scores from Conor Corvan, including a green flag, and a big score from the impressive Shea Gaffney sent the visitors 2-4 to 0-2 ahead. The Armagh defence were cleaning up much of the ball in the first half, but Armagh keeper Simon Doherty pulled off two good saves in quick succession, reulting in two converted 65s from Masterson. Eoin McGuinness was having a super game at midfield and he added a score as Armagh increased the pressure and took complete control. Ryan Gaffney hit four points from the dead ball, two from frees and two from 65s. Meanwhile, Wicklow could only manage one score from play in the first half, reflecting the solid Armagh defensive display in the first 35 minutes. As half time approached, both sides were reduced to 14 men with Diarmuid Masterson deserving of his red, but Armagh’s Eoin McGuinness can feel aggrieved at what appeared to be a very unfair and harsh dismissal. The score at half time stood at Ard Mhacha 2-9 Cill Mhantáin 0-6.
Armagh started the second half as they finished the first and two Ryan Gaffney frees put Armagh ahead by 11 points. However, Wicklow were determined that the visitors would not be having it all their own way in this half. The free-taking duties for the Garden County were left to John Henderson and Christy Moorehouse, who cancelled out the two early second half scores, and as the Wicklow midfield came into the game and the half back line started turning over more ball, Warren Kavanagh fired over, quickly followed by a Wicklow goal through Henderson. Two super efforts from Cahal Carvill and Conor Corvan looked to have stopped the building Wicklow momentum, but Eamon Kearns and Anthony Byrne were equal to the Armagh efforts to keep the Wicklow scoreboard ticking over. Moorehouse continued to punish any Armagh defensive indiscretions from the deadball, but Dylan McKenna from play and Ryan Gaffney from the dead ball put five between the teams. With the game in time added on, Wicklow struck a consolation goal and when the final whistle sounded, Armagh won the game by two points. Full time score Ard Mhacha 2-17 Cill Mhantáin 2-15
The result was Armagh’s first victory over Wicklow in eight years and while the score shows just two points between the sides, Armagh could and should have won this game by a much bigger margin. Manager Sylvester McConnell will be happy that his side claimed the two points in a tricky tie away from home, but he will know that there is plenty of work to do before the Meath match on Sunday at 12.30pm in the Athletic Grounds. An Mhí will go into the game as favourites given their massive win over Dún na nGall 2-35 to 0-9, but Armagh will be hoping for a repeat of last year’s dramatic league win over the Royals to maintain the momentum and claim another two points in their Division 2B campaign.
Ard Mhacha: Simon Doherty, Ciarán Clifford, Artie McGuinness, Connor Devlin, Shea Gaffney (0-1), Nathan Curry, Kieran McKernan (0-1), Eoin McGuinness (0-1), Stephen Renaghan, Cahal Carvill (1-1), Ryan Gaffney (0-6 f, 0-2 65), David Carvill, Conor Corvan (1-3), John Corvan, Declan Coulter (0-1)
Subs used: Dylan McKenna (0-1) for Coulter, Peter McKearney for David Carvill, Paddy McGrane for Connor Devlin, Adam Toal for Artie McGuinness