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Saturday 18 November 2017

Penalty earns Sligo a draw

With Armagh one of the favourites to get promotion from Division 3, Sligo had it all to play for and they were three points adrift going into the last minute

Adrian Marren, who scored 1-6, including the late penalty for Sligo
Adrian Marren, who scored 1-6, including the late penalty for Sligo

A last gasp penalty in the dying moments secured Sligo a share of the spoils with Armagh in their opening Allianz League encounter in Markievicz Park on Sunday afternoon. Referee Paddy Neilan signalled a penalty in the last minute of additional time as the large travelling Armagh supporters, believing victory was theirs, showed their dissatisfaction.

Sligo 1-14 Armagh 2-11

In the 74th minute, Sligo substitute Brian Egan sought out Stephen Coen who was lurking close to the Armagh goal and the referee awarded the hosts a penalty after Coen's jersey was pulled.

Adrian Marren, who scored a total of 1-6 during the afternoon, coolly stepped up and slotted to the left of Mathew McNiece in the Armagh goal, the home support jumping to their feet.

Kieran McGeeney's side dominated for large parts of the game, with Stefan Campbell being instrumental throughout, with substitute Paul Hughes also impressing after coming into the fray.

Leading by six points going into the final ten minutes, it looked as though the visitors were in control, yet Sligo kept chipping away at their advantage, three points from Marren and another from Coen left three between them as the final minute of injury time approached.

It seemed as though Armagh would emerge victors when Ethan Rafferty pointed a free in the 71st minute, as Sligo were showing frustration, with two players black carded as time looked to be running out.

Then came the penalty right before the end as both shared the spoils.

Sligo, donning their new O'Neill's jersey for the first time, had a number of young players starting, including wing forward Paddy O'Connor who was making his League debut.

Armagh had to make a late change prior to the game with captain Aidan Forker being replaced by Shea Heffron before throw-in.

An early Sligo chance saw Marren seeking out corner forward Niall Murphy the ball was just out of reach for the Coolera/Strandhill man, sailing out for the game's first wide.

The alert Campbell then went on a decisive run for Armagh, finding Rafferty, who slotted over the first point on two minutes. This was followed by another from the boot of Ciaran Higgins, a fine point from play as Armagh were settling into the game.

A close-range free on Murphy was easily slotted over by Mark Breheny as Sligo got their first point on six minutes. The hosts won the resulting kick-out and Breheny sent a good ball to Keelan Cawley, a neat one-two with Criostóir Davey, saw Cawley hitting a great point from play to draw the sides level.

Marren and Rafferty swapped pointed frees before Sligo took the lead on 15 minutes, Murphy sending over a brilliant score, much to the delight of the home crowd. Armagh, despite having much of the possession, saw four attempts drop short into the arms of Sligo keeper Aidan Devaney.

A mistake from Devaney who came off his line as Ben Crealey's shot was sailing in, saw the keeper touching the ball off the ground and it was Rafferty who brought things level again from the subsequent free on 21 minutes.

Then, two minutes later and Armagh leapt into a three-point lead. A brilliant pass from Crealey found the waiting Rafferty who darted and neatly slotted to the left of Devaney for Armagh's first goal.

The visitors were passing with more conviction and Campbell pointed an excellent score on 25 minutes to edge them four in front as Sligo badly needed a score.

Marren was being well marked by the Armagh defence, as a Breheny free brought three between them on 28 minutes.

McNeice was reprimanded for time wasting with his kick-outs as the referee gave a hop ball, which was initially won by Armagh before Davey was fouled and Marren pointed to bring it back to a two-point game with five minutes to the break.

Sligo won the kick-out, Paddy O'Connor finding Murphy down the right who pointed a fine score to leave one between them, 1-5 to seven points at the interval.

Armagh got a quick-fire score after the resumption, from Oisín O'Neill, before Murphy got his third point from play on 36 minutes, before the Armagh onslaught began.

Hughes found Campbell who neatly pointed and three minutes later it was the half-forward once again who was on target from a free. He nearly added another thirty seconds later but the shot sliced off the bar.

On 48 minutes, Armagh got their second goal, corner back Mark Shields leaving Devaney with no answer after he smashed the ball into the net after being fed by substitute Jamie Clarke.

With Armagh now six in front, thing were looking ominous for Sligo going into the final twenty. Two missed chances for the hosts seemed to add to their misery, before McNeice was timewasting again with his kick-outs.

This time, the hop ball went in Sligo's favour and Marren reduced the gap to five with 52 minutes played.

Adrian McIntyre added another from play for Sligo as the brilliant Campbell saw hit shot sail over on 55 minutes, five separating them once again.

Possession was gifted to Armagh who went on the attack, earning a free which was pointed by Rafferty edging them six in front on 58 minutes as Sligo seemed to be struggling somewhat in front of the posts.

To their credit, the hosts didn't let Armagh run riot in the final ten minutes. Substitute Coen was covering a lot of ground since being introduced, he brought the deficit back to five on 60 minutes, deceptively turning from his marker and going on a decisive run.

Down the other end, O'Neill was lurking dangerously close to the Sligo goal, Devaney however collected.

A Duffy attempt went wide for Armagh as a Marren free put four in it with seven minutes to go. Another Marren free was converted sixty seconds later as the Armagh supporters began to look rather tense as Marren pointed from play, leaving two between them with six to go.

The home support were finding their voices as Sligo showed more intensity.

A seven minute lull in scoring was broken on 71 minutes when Rafferty pointed a free as Armagh could feel victory was theirs.

Then up lurked Coen as Egan lobbed the ball toward the Armagh goalmouth, Coen's jersey adjudged to being pulled, and up stepped Marren who smashed into the net.

Jubilation for the Sligo support, devastation for the large travelling Armagh fans.

SLIGO: A Devaney, N Gaughan, K McDonnell, E McHugh, K Cawley (0-1), N Ewing (C), G O'Kelly-Lynch, A McIntyre (0-1), R Donovan, C Davey, M Breheny (0-2, 2f), J Kelly, P O'Connor, A Marren (1-6, 4f 1pen), N Murphy (0-3).

Subs used: S Gilmartin for McHugh (h/t), K Cawley for Kelly (47), S Coen (0-1) for Breheny (53), B Egan for Davey (64), L Nicholson for Gaughan b/c (70), C Henry for Murphy b/c (71).

ARMAGH: M McNeice, M Shields (1-0), C Vernon, A McKay, S Heffron, N Rowland, C Higgins (0-1), S Sheridan, B Crealey, A Duffy, C White, S Campbell (0-4, 1f), O O'Neill (0-1), E Rafferty (1-5, 4f), O MacÍomhair.

Subs used: P Hughes for Higgins (16), C O'Hanlon for White (h/t), J Clarke for MacÍomhair (46), N Grimley for Crealey (54), G MacPartland for O'Neill (65).

Referee: P Neilan (Roscomon).

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