WEXFORD 1-6 ARMAGH 3-21
Richard Bullick reports
Title favourites Armagh made predictably light work of lowly Wexford in notching up a second successive away win in Division Three of the Tesco Homegrown National League.
James Daly’s side strolled to their expected victory in Ballygarrett against a team tipped for relegation and now have home comforts for the next four weeks as they continue their promotion push.
Armagh went into this match buoyed by a gutsy triumph at ambitious Tipperary in their opening outing and welcomed back Caroline O’Hanlon for her first appearance as official county captain.
The classy Carrickcruppen midfielder marked the occasion by top-scoring with 2-5, all from open play, as Armagh made sure of victory in the first half before making mass substitutions in the second.
There were league debuts off the bench for Silverbridge’s Megan Burns – daughter of former Armagh great, Jarlath – Lissummon’s Catherine Marley, Dearbhail Campbell of Sarsfields and St Paul’s Ulster Schools Cup-winning goalkeeping hero Anna Carr, whose Carrickcruppen colleague Caoimhe Murray made her return to county colours.
There were three personnel changes, enforced by injuries to 2013 ever-present Sarah Marley – who did appear as a sub – former captain Mags McAlinden and Carrickcruppen’s Caitlin Malone, plus a further four positional switches from the starting team against Tipperary.
The second Marley sister was replaced at left corner back by Ballyhegan’s Danielle Morgan, with the returning O’Hanlon taking over from her clubmate Malone in midfield where she formed a new all-Cruppen pairing with Marian McGuinness.
In O’Hanlon’s absence, Fionnuala McKenna had partnered Malone in midfield against Tipperary but the skipper’s return saw Daly revert to his original intention for the previous game and deploy the Harps star at full forward.
That pushed last week’s goal hero Kelly Mallon out to the corner with Siobhan Mackle, a late call-up against Tipp, reverting to wing forward and McGuinness dropping back into midfield.
Young Niamh Henderson, unavailable last week for work reasons, came in at corner forward in place of her vastly experienced Clann Eireann clubmate McAlinden.
Armagh’s changed combinations didn’t need much time to settle in and the visitors raced clear to establish a 16-point interval lead on a scoreline of 1-15 to a mere two points.
O’Hanlon, showing no ill effects of an early morning flight from England or the previous night’s British SuperLeague netball match, led the way with 1-5 in that opening period while McKenna and Mackle kicked a hat-trick of points apiece.
Dromintee’s Aoife McCoy contributed two points and there was one each from Mallon and Lauren McConville, leaving Henderson as the only one of the six forwards not to register before the break.
With the match effectively over already, Daly began ringing the changes at half-time, with several subs introduced and numerous switches. It was a proud day for the Marley family with all four sisters together on the field for the first time in county colours.
The visitors scored a further 2-6 in the second half, Mallon leading the way with 1-1 while O’Hanlon netted her second goal of the afternoon, McKenna kicked another three points and McCoy landed a further two.
Daly took the opportunity to empty his entire bench which understandably disrupted Armagh’s momentum and Wexford fought to salvage pride but a 21-point winning margin represented a satisfactory day’s work.
Armagh host Longford next Sunday in what was supposed to be their opening game of the campaign but fell foul of unplayable pitches at the start of this month.
ARMAGH: K Daly; M Tennyson, C Morgan, D Morgan; S Reel, N Marley, S Grey; M McGuinness, C O’Hanlon (capt; 2-5); A McCoy (0-4), L McConville (0-1), S Mackle (0-3); N Henderson, F McKenna (0-6, 2f), K Mallon (1-2). Subs used: L Kenny, C Marley, A Doran, S Marley, C Murray, C Duffy, M Burns, D Campbell, A Carr.