Saturday 8 February 2020 at the Athletic Grounds
Armagh 0-16 Kildare 0-10
By Shaun Casey, The Sideline Eye
Armagh fans demanded a reaction following their sides below par performance last weekend and they certainly got it from Kieran McGeeney’s men last night, when the overpowered Kildare to get their season back on track.
They played with bravery, worked hard all over the field and didn’t wane during the physical stakes around the centre of the park, which was a real battlefield at times, with both keepers having no option but to drive the ball long from kick outs.
Their skill level was severally tested due to the challenging weather conditions but they answered any questions that were thrown at them and what made the win even more impressive was that they done so with 14 men for the majority of the second period.
An altercation involving all team members, including subs, at half time lead to Jamie Clarke being yellow carded at the beginning of the second half while the game had only restarted when Clarke was sent to the line for what the referee deemed a second bookable offence.
How the ref managed to solely pick out Clarke for the scuffle at the break was questionable while he’s second yellow card, which at the time severely hampered Armagh’s chances, was for Clarke accidently colliding with his opponents face while trying to brush the defender off.
The play continued after the incident and Clarke set up Stephen Sheridan who blasted over the bar before the man in the middle called Clarke to one side and sent him to the line, leaving Armagh down a man and facing into an incredibly strong and unpredictable wind.
Armagh played with the breeze at their backs for the opening 35 minutes and build up a seven point advantage by the time the short whistle had blown. But it was their strong burst at the start of the second half that truly secured the victory.
Rian O’Neill (2), Sheridan and Aidan Nugent all scored within the first eight minutes of the second period to open up an 11 point gap and although Kildare pumped high balls to the edge of the square, the Armagh defence stood firm and the hosts kept the scoreboard ticking over to control of the game.
Aidan Forker deserves praise for the role he played, placed a full back and handed the duty of man-marking Daniel Flynn, Forker heroically rose to the challenge and held Flynn to a single point, while getting up to kick a free himself.
It was Forker’s turnover in the 4th minute that helped Armagh open their account. Paddy Burns played a diagonal ball to the isolated Aidan Nugent and Nugent dived on possession to claim the mark and chip over the first point of the night.
Kildare started the contest well, Keith Cribben asserting himself as the sweeper while they retained possession and slowed the game down whenever the chance presented itself, taking as much time over the kick out as possible, feigning injuries and taking no risks going forward.
Their ‘keeper had no option but to drive the ball out the field from kick outs and Kildare got their first score from winning primary possession in the middle, and breaking forward with Paul Cribben scoring after 8 minutes.
Jimmy Hyland hit the post when attempting to sneak his side into the lead while the Kildare defence sprung into action when Aidan Nugent’s goal-bound shot was saved strongly by Mark Donnellan before bouncing wide.
Armagh began to find their rhythm and kicked the final seven points of the half, with Captain ‘Soupy’ Campbell leading the march with a 17th minute point to put his side in the lead, and they would stay there for the remainder of the game.
Niall Grimley made a strong turnover in the midfield and drove forward to kick a score while Aidan Forker used the wind beautifully to curl over a difficult free after Mark Shields had been fouled.
Armagh could have been further ahead but were once again denied a goal when Rian O’Neill’s attempt was blocked down bravely by Peter Kelly, but Armagh remained on top with Oisin O’Neill swinging over an awesome score from near the sideline.
Campbell added to his tally before turning provider to set up Clarke’s second point, after Clarke had chipped over a free just before the half time break with the Orchard deservingly seven ahead, 0-8 to 0-1.
Again Armagh could have rattled the net just after the restart but were again denied and Rian O’Neill chipped over a score to ensure his side got something from the move. Sheridan and Nugent added points before O’Neill swung over a huge free, facing into the stiff wind.
It was Kildare’s turn to look for goals and with Flynn, now stationed at the edge of the square, the Lilywhites send the ball long as often as possible. Flynn captured possession and sent the ball past Blaine Hughes but Niall Grimley was on hand to turn the ball away from the goal line and Armagh kept their big lead.
Paddy Brophy did pull one back moments later for Kildare but Armagh responded emphatically; Callum Cumiskey fending off the attentions of his marker and to drive the ball over the bar and retain his side nine point advantage.
Substitute Adam Tyrell helped to close the gap with two frees while Flynn raised his first white flag of the evening. Rian O’Neill tagged on another for Armagh while Kildare continued to edge closer with Paul Cribben and Tyrell leaving six the margin.
A great cross-field ball from Oisin O’Neill found Shields who got on the score sheet while Rian O’Neill’s 3rd free split scores from Jack Robinson and Paddy Brophy. Brophy would kick the final score of the night with Armagh running out six point winners in the end.
It was the perfect response for Kieran McGeeney’s side and they now face into the break in a positive mood. They face the trip to Westmeath in two weeks time and another performance like they produced last night would secure the two points on offer.
Armagh: Blaine Hughes, Paddy Burns, Aidan Forker (0-1 1f), Jarly Og Burns, Conor O’Neill, Stephen Sheridan (0-1), Joe McElroy, Niall Grimley (0-1), Oisin O’Neill (0-1), Callum Cumiskey (0-1), Stefan Campbell (0-2), Mark Shields (0-1), Conor Turbitt, Rian O’Neill (0-4 3f), Aidan Nugent (0-2). Subs: Jamie Clarke (0-2 1f) for C. Turbitt, James Morgan for C. O’Neill, Greg McCabe for A. Nugent, Brendan Donaghy for M. Shields, Aaron McKay for C. Cumiskey.
Kildare: Mark Donnellan, Con Kavanagh, Mick O’Grady, Peter Kelly, Kevin Flynn, Shea Ryan, David Hyland, Kevin Feely, Tommy Moolick, Paul Cribben (0-2), Paddy Brophy (0-3), Keith Cribben, Niall Kelly, Daniel Flynn (0-1), Jimmy Hyland. Subs: Neil Flynn for M. O’Grady, Johnny Byrne for C. Kavanagh, Adam Tyrell (0-3 2f) for J. Hyland, Jack Robinson (0-1) for T. Moolick