Electric McDonnell ruins McGeeney homecoming
KIERAN McGeeney will always enjoy iconic status in Armagh, having led his native county to All-Ireland glory as a player in 2002, but yesterday his management credentials shipped a heavy blow when the Lilywhites were humbled in Crossmaglen.
The feelgood factor that had permeated the Kildare camp in the wake of successive victories over Tipperary and Donegal evaporated as Armagh left McGeeney's men trailing in their wake. The hosts were clinically efficient at the back, authoritative at midfield and resourceful up front despite amassing a catalogue of wides
This was Armagh's third victory on the bounce and it will send them into a mouthwatering clash with unbeaten neighbours Down on Saturday on something of a high -- a fact acknowledged by manager Paddy O'Rourke as he appraised his team's efforts.
"We played well as a unit and that is important. I thought we imposed ourselves at midfield despite the absence of people like James Lavery and Charlie Vernon and that laid the basis for our win," he said.
"But we will just keep our focus on trying to win as many games as we can.
"This win is a boost going in against Down -- that will be a crucial test for us."
By half-time his side had virtually assured themselves of the points when they led by 0-7 to 0-2, with Kildare's attacking edge clearly blunted by the efficiency of the home rearguard, in which Brendan Donaghy, Paul Duffy and Andy Mallon were particularly impressive.
With Steven McDonnell continuing in the rich vein of scoring form that has marked his league campaign to date and Stefan Forker making a huge impact on his return from duty with UUJ, the hosts flourished, even though they managed to spurn a litany of chances.
If the introduction of Willie Heffernan and Eamon Kavanagh infused more life into Kildare after half-time, it proved nothing more than a temporary reprieve. Armagh, with McDonnell and Forker sharing eight points and Ronan Austin and Kieran Toner dominating the much-vaunted Dermot Earley and Darryl Flynn in the middle third, surged through the final quarter, during which they landed four points without reply.
It was left to a crestfallen Niall Carew to articulate the Lilywhites' viewpoint on an exceedingly bad day at the office.
"Armagh were clearly on top throughout. They would not have been flattered had they won by a bigger margin. We can take very few positives from this game and we will have a lot to ponder over at training," said Carew.
Scorers -- Armagh: S McDonnell (0-2f), S Forker 0-4 each, A Kernan (0-1f), P Kernan, M McNamee, R Austin 0-1 each. Kildare: J Doyle 0-2 (fs), G White, D Flynn, J Kavanagh 0-1 each.
ARMAGH -- P McEvoy; A Mallon, B Donaghy, P Duffy; P Kernan, C McKeever, F Moriarty; R Austin, K Toner; J Feeney, A Kernan, G Swift; R Henderson, S McDonnell, S Forker. Subs: M McNamee for Feeney (59 ), J O'Neill for Henderson (65), B Mallon for A Kernan (69).
KILDARE -- P Flood; H McGrillen, D Hendy, E Bolton; K Cribbin, M Scanlon, G White; D Flynn, E Earley; D Whyte, P O'Neill, J Doyle; K Donnelly, J Kavanagh, K Ennis. Subs: E Callaghan for Whyte (18), R Sweeney for Donnelly (h/t), W Heffernan for Ennis (h/t), M Foley for Cribbin (57).
REF -- Joe McQuillan (Cavan).