NFL Report: Armagh kick their way to two league points in Drogheda
Allianz National Football League Division Three:
Louth 0-11 3-15 Armagh
By Caoimhín Reilly
Outclassed may be slightly strong, but Louth were certainly made to look very ordinary this afternoon by an Armagh side bulging with presence.
The game was summed up perfectly as the two teams gathered on opposing 45m lines at full-time. While Armagh stood firm in a huddle, Colin Kelly’s troops looked despondently at one another as if they were a group of first-years unfamiliar with their classmates.
They were only yards apart but events over the previous hour-and-a-half suggested the contrary. Kieran McGeeney’s men were controlled, slick and clinical while being typically aggressive in fronting up any Louth player who posed a threat.
After their start to the campaign it would be unfair to label Louth as shrinking violets, although their showing professed as much as they never looked like winning at any stage. They never even raised a gallop.
The Orchard County dominated the physical exchanges and almost bullied Louth into giving them possession, while Jamie Clarke and co revelled in the vast open spaces stemming from the early dismissals of Aidan Forker and Anthony Williams for similar striking incidents.
Ciaran Brannigan, the match referee, set a dangerous precedent for himself after only 90 seconds when he adjudged, with the aid of his linesman, Forker to have struck Derek Maguire.
Forker’s second sending off of the campaign riled the Orchard faithful, who felt hard done by although Brannigan did level matters up nine minutes later by ushering Williams to the line following an off the ball incident which left Niall Grimley panned out.
And along with Louth’s discipline went their concentration as cheap turnovers allowed Armagh to all but win the game inside the opening quarter.
The first of Armagh’s three-pointers arrived on nine-minutes when quick interchange between Rory Grugan and Anto Duffy saw them waltz past a static home rear-guard before off-loading to the waiting Ciaran McKeever, who in turn wrong footed Craig Lynch to despatch to the net.
Armagh’s captain Grugan and fellow wing-forward Grimley were outstanding in attack and both notched fantastic scores from distance before Paul Hughes got himself on the board in easing the visitors into a commanding lead, 1-3 to no score after 13 minutes.
Louth’s attacking efforts were disjointed with neither Ryan Burns nor Eoin O’Connor showing enough inside, although when they did the service was poor.
Páraic Smith got the first of his three first-half points from play on the quarter-hour mark to open Louth’s account, however, from the resultant kick-out Armagh cruised the length of the pitch to raise a second green flag as Niall Rowland blasted to the roof of the net.
Louth were doing themselves no favours though. Not only were they being torn defensively asunder by Armagh’s pace in possession, but they were putting themselves under unnecessary pressure by playing the ball in dangerous areas instead of just clearing their lines.
A slip by John Bingham allowed Grugan to hit his side’s fourth point, although a 14-minute baron spell from Kieran McGeeney’s men brought Louth somewhat back into contention with Smith (2) and Burns (3) closing the gap.
The Ulstermen were full value for their 2-5 to six-points interval advantage, however, having played with the gust, you questioned if their buffer was big enough.
But whatever reservations the onlookers had were promptly banished on the restart as the league leaders conceded four of the first five points with Armagh’s relentless waves of attack yielding utter dominance on the scoreboard.
Tommy Durnin, once again Louth’s best performer, did his utmost to bring his team back into the reckoning and kicked a fine point soon after. Although, with few to aid him, it was a thankless task.
Meanwhile, Burns’ threat was completely nullified in stark contrast to Clarke who continued to knock over points at his leisure.
The second period served only to highlight the flakiness of the home defence with Grugan and Grimley afforded oceans of room to impress.
Armagh’s third goal came when Duffy was hauled down by Declan Byrne with Clarke rounding off his day’s work by striking the ensuing penalty to the net, despite Lynch getting a firm fist on it.
The tie was well over by the time Armagh supporters raised one last cheer on the final whistle. A 13-point winning margin told the story and, although some of their antics off the ball makes you question what black cards are for, there was no doubting the better team won.
Louth: Craig Lynch; John Bingham, Patrick Reilly, Kevin Carr; Derek Maguire, Pádraig Rath, Anthony Williams; Tommy Durnin (0-2), Declan Byrne; James Stewart, Páraic Smith (0-3), Bevan Duffy; Rúairí Moore, Eoin O’Connor, Ryan Burns (0-4, three frees & 45)
Subs: Adrian Reid for Moore (20), Gerard McSorley (0-1) for Bingham (43), Conal McKeever (0-1) for O’Connor (54), Kurt Murphy for Carr (67), Ronan Holdcroft for Burns (72)
Yellow Card: Byrne (38), Durnin (56), Maguire (58)
Red Card: Williams (11)
Armagh: Blaine Hughes; Gregory McCabe, Charlie Vernon, Paul Hughes (0-1); Niall Rowland (1-0), Brendan Donaghy, Aaron McKay; Stephen Sheridan (0-1), Aaron Findon; Rory Grugan (0-4, one free), Anthony Duffy, Niall Grimley (0-5, three frees); Jamie Clarke (1-3, 1-0 pen), Ciaran McKeever (1-0), Aidan Forker
Subs: Ben Crealey for Findon (27), James Morgan for McCabe (HT), Shea Heffron for Rowland (58), Ciaran O’Hanlon for Duffy (66), Gavin McParland (0-1) for McKeever (67), Niall McConville for Grugan (72)
Yellow Card: McCabe (18), Vernon (51), Grugan (55), Rowland (56)
Red Card: Forker (2)
Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down)
Man of the Match: Niall Grimley (Armagh) – A vital cog in a very functional Armagh attack which registered 2-12. Grimley bagged five points and played exceptionally well on the wing, proving elusive for the Louth defence to mark. Tall, strong and deadly in front of the posts, the Madden man could be crucial to McGeeney’s hopes come the summer months.