Armagh hurlers suffered defeat in the Nicky Rackard final in the cruellest of circumstances on Saturday afternoon in Croke Park. Leading by two with injury time almost up, it was Roscommon captain Mícheál Kelly who delivered the crushing blow with a pile driver shot hitting the back of the net from the last puck of the game.
Roscommon got the opening score through Keith Kilkenny but Ryan Gaffney steadied Armagh’s early nerves pointing two frees. The Connacht men were soon celebrating a three pointer with Adrian Murphy finding himself in space one on one with keeper, Simon Doherty, and he finished it cleanly to the net. Points were traded with Gaffney on hand for Armagh and Cillian Egan for Roscommon. The Rossies continued to exert pressure and good work from Connor Devlin in defence cleared the danger, with the ball being worked up the field and put out for an Armagh sideline cut. Cahal Carvill’s effort from the line just tailed off and Armagh were left to rue a number of wides when Roscommon’s Ronan O’Meara stepped up to convert a free and put them ahead 1-3 to 0-3. The resulting puck-out found its way to David Carvill, whose effort finished narrowly wide of the post, but a converted free from Gaffney and a score from Decky Coulter, after great fielding from Nathan Curry, reduced the margin to one. John Moran stopped the rot for Roscommon momentarily, but a converted 65 from Curry and a point from David Carvill drew the sides level. The Armagh pressure began to tell as a score from Connor Devlin put them in front and when a great ball in from Coulter was gathered by Conor Corvan who fired it across to Cahal Carvill, the umpire was soon reaching for the green flag as Carvill picked his spot beyond the onrushing Noel Fallon in the Roscommon goal. A point for Adrian Murphy reduced the gap to three and as half time approached, a Cahal Carvill sideline cut fell to Eoin McGuinness who swung on the ball but the Roscommon full back got a block on it and the ball was cleared from danger.
HT Ard Mhacha 1-8 Ros Comáin 1-5
Armagh got off to a bright start in the second half and good work from Marty Moan to win the ball and lay it off to Eoin McGuinness resulted in a white flag, a point that was quickly followed by a dead ball effort from Gaffney. John Moran got a score for Roscommon and it took a good stop from Simon Doherty to deny the westerners early on. Jerry Fallon converted two consecutive frees, but a point for Declan Coulter restored the three point advantage. Scores from John Coyne and a converted free from Fallon brought the margin down to one, but when Declan Coulter was hauled down as he was cutting through the Roscommon defence, Gaffney added to his tally from the dead ball. Gaffney and Moran traded scores and an effort from Coyne with minutes remaining brought the minimum between the sides. Armagh needed to produce a score and Cahal Carvill went on the attack, only to be fouled and leave Gaffney to convert his eighth free of the day. As the PA announced one minute of additional time, Roscommon had one last attack and with a foul being awarded 25 metres out, up stepped the captain to blast to the top corner and end Armagh’s dreams of a third Nicky Rackard cup in the most heartbreaking fashion.
FT Ard Mhacha 1-14 Ros Comáin 2-12
While Armagh fell foul of one of Croke Park’s most dramatic last-gasp finishes, credit must be given to every player who gave it their all and did their clubs and county proud on Saturday. And although the players and management will be bitterly disappointed to have lost the game and the opportunity to contest a Christy Ring promotion play-off, they will no doubt bounce back and build on the work that has been put into Armagh hurling this year. Armagh will now have to refocus for the upcoming Ulster championship game against An Dún, which is due to be played in the Athletic Grounds on Sunday 21 June.
Nicky Rackard final teams
Ard Mhacha: Simon Doherty, Stephen Renaghan, Ciaran Clifford, Connor Devlin (0-1), Kieran McKernan, Nathan Curry (0-1 65), Shea Gaffney, Declan Coulter (0-2), John Corvan, Ryan Gaffney (0-8 f), Cahal Carvill (1-0), David Carvill (0-1), Martin Moan, Eoin McGuinness (0-1) Conor Corvan
Subs used: Caily Gorman, Conor McKee, Artie McGuinness
Ros Comáin: Noel Fallon, Ian Delaney, Peter Kellehan, Liam Kilcline, Declan Leonard, Mícheál Kelly (1-0 f), Tomás Seale, Cathal Dolan, Jason Kilkenny, John Moran (0-3), Ronan O’Meara (0-1 f), Jerry Fallon (0-3 f), Cillian Egan (0-1), Keith Kilkenny (0-1), Adrian Murphy (1-1)
Subs used: Cathal Kelly, John Coyne (0-2), Cathal Kenny, Eamon Flanagan, Gary Fallon