Thursday 23 March 2017

The game at a glance

Man of the match: Jamie Clarke (Armagh):His early scoring spree was curtailed by a new marker but, in the last quarter, the Crossmaglen star also provided many key assists and the whole ground buzzed every time he touched the ball.

Turning point

At the end of the third quarter, with the sides level for a second time, Down wasted four good scoring chances in a row. That seemed to undermine their confidence and effort, handing the impetus back to Armagh, who then scored 0-5 to 0-1 to pull clear.

Talking point

How Down faded in the final quarter after such a gutsy fightback. Plus, have they no defensive cover? After conceding 1-6 in a row it was a corner-forward who was hauled off and all of their subs were from midfield up.

Ref watch

Apart from missing one obvious push on Benny Coulter, Cormac Reilly was exemplary: using warnings rather than flashing cards, constantly talking to the players and even over-ruling a linesmen when necessary.

What they said

Paddy O'Rourke (Armagh manager):

"This feels as good a day as I've had in football. I've taken criticism for things when they've gone the other way, but I'm just pleased for the players. It's nice for them to win their first real game in the Athletic Grounds."

James McCartan (Down manager):

"We were built up, based on what? Our record in the Ulster championship was there for all to see, but our performance wasn't good enough and we were in trouble in a lot of areas."

Match statistics

Wides: Armagh 10 (3); Down 6 (2)

Frees: Armagh 22 (7); Down 22 (14)

Yellow Cards: Armagh 1 (McKeever 43); Down 2 (G McCartan 14, Hughes 66)

Attendance: 13,107

What next?

Armagh play Derry in the Ulster semi-final on June 19, Down go into the qualifiers, which start on June 25.

Irish Independent

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