Rebels dig deep to share spoils
GAA director general Paraic Duffy was among a crowd of around 3,000 at the Morgan Athletics Grounds who saw some of the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of modern football displayed by Armagh and Cork yesterday.
The good -- commitment and passion for the jersey and a gritty, exciting contest that ended with honours even.
The bad -- heavy reliance on defensive screens, particularly in the first half by Armagh and some woeful shooting and passing by the two teams.
The ugly -- an unnecessary multi-player schemozzle near the end of the first half that did no favours to the game's image, plus a red card for silly indiscipline by Cork's Paul Kerrigan.
Before delving any further into the details, it's worth noting that the young players of the two teams who provided the half-time entertainment ended their brief match by lining up to shake hands with each other. Their fresh-faced innocence and smiles of delight as they walked off the pitch to a round of applause bodes well for the future, but they weren't set a great example by the adults in the feature game.
Referee Syl Doyle, who had a moderate match, ended up booking ten players, six from Armagh, and four from Cork. Kerrigan, who had looked a threat for Cork, received a straight red after 31 minutes for an altercation with Armagh's Finian Moriarty, following consultation with a linesman.
Cork manager Conor Counihan didn't feel it warranted red, obviously, but Armagh boss Paddy O'Rourke had some sympathy for the player. "It's a pity about young Kerrigan. He probably didn't need to go. A booking would have done him, but it happens. It's not too hard to get sent off nowadays," said O'Rourke.
Perhaps, a more appropriate punishment would have been a yellow card for Kerrigan and Moriarty, as the Armagh man had a role to play in the incident.
The dismissal had quite an impact on the match. First, it left Cork to play with 14 men for over 40 minutes. Then it helped fuel the big shoving, pushing, grappling melee a couple of minutes later and thirdly it gave Armagh hope of a second-half revival.
They went into half-time with only a single point on the board, which came from a 26th-minute free by Paul Carvill. Cork had 1-3, but the goal came from unfortunate Armagh midfielder John Kingman in the 21st minute.
Kingman, making his league debut, deflected the ball, kicked in from a free by Kerrigan, past his own goalkeeper. It wasn't a great debut -- he had earlier been booked and was substituted after 27 minutes -- but Paddy O'Rourke knows Kingman is a better player than he showed yesterday.
Cork's three points, ground out during a frustrating opening 35 minutes, came from Fiachra Lynch, Mark Collins and Donncha O'Connor.
Armagh came out with a positive attitude in the second half and it paid dividends. With Malachy Mackin moving outfield from full-forward, rugged Ciaran McKeever driving forward as the spare man, sub Brian Mallon bringing guile to the attacking momentum and young Eugene McVerry and another sub Aidan Forker stepping up to the plate, Cork found it tough to survive.
Fintan Goold made it 1-4 to 0-1 after 38 minutes, but over the next 11 minutes, Forkan (two points, one a free) and McVerry (three frees) got the crowd enthused as they reduced the arrears to a point. And when man of the match Mackin powered deep into the Cork half to get the equalising point after 53 minutes, Armagh had Cork rocking.
"At an early stage of the second half it looked as if we'd get nothing out of it, but, in fairness, we dug deep and we got something out of it," said Counihan.
The moment Armagh went ahead with another point from play by McVerry in the 54th minute, the home side looked like completing a full recovery, but Sean Kiely nicked a badly-needed score to steady the Cork ship (1-5 to
0-8) a minute later.
Over the next 15 minutes the two sides threw all they had into the tussle for supremacy. Paudie Kissane, a strong contender for man of the match, Graham Canty, Michael Shields, Noel O'Leary before he was replaced shortly after being booked, Alan O'Connor, Eoin Cadogan and Donncha O'Connor battled to stem the Armagh tide.
Ultimately, each side had only two more scores left in them, despite their all-out efforts in the closing stages: Forkan, with a free, and Brian Mallon for Armagh and Donncha O'Connor and Mark Collins for Cork.
Man of the Match: Malachy Mackin (Armagh)
Scorers -- Armagh: E McVerry 0-4 (3f), A Forker 0-3f, P Carvill, M Mackin, B Mallon 0-1 each. Cork: J Kingham og 1-0, D O'Connor, M Collins 0-2 each, F Goold (f), F Lynch, S Kiely 0-1 each.
Armagh -- N Geoghegan 7; A Mallon 6, B Donaghy 6, D McKenna 6; P Duffy 6, C McKeever 7, F Moriarty 6; C Vernon 6, J Kingham 5; C Watters 6, K Dyas 6, A Duffy 6; P Carvill 6, M Mackin 8, E McVerry 8. Subs: C Rafferty 6 for J Kingham (27); A Forker 7 for C Watters (34); S Campbell 6 for P Carvill (h-t); B Mallon 7 for P Duffy (43); R Rafferty 6 for K Dyas (58).
Cork -- K O'Halloran 7; R Carey 6, M Shields 7, E Cadogan 7; N O'Leary 7, G Canty 7, P Kissane 8; A O'Connor 7, P O'Neill 6; F Goold 6, M Collins 7, C O'Driscoll 6; F Lynch 6, D O'Connor 7, P Kerrigan 5. Subs: S Kiely 6 for C O'Driscoll (50); D O'Sullivan 6 for N O'Leary (55); E Cotter 6 for E Cadogan (58); L Shorten 6 for F Lynch (64).
Ref -- S Doyle (Wexford)