Thursday 20 September 2018

Armagh ease past 13-man Sligo

Armagh 1-19 Sligo 1-13

Sligo's Sean Carrabine tries to keep up with Armagh's Aaron McKay. Photo: Sportsfile
Sligo's Sean Carrabine tries to keep up with Armagh's Aaron McKay. Photo: Sportsfile

Rory Grugan's goal set up a powerful second-half surge from Armagh that eased them past 13-man Sligo and into the third round of the qualifiers.

Sligo, who came into this fixture on the back of a Connacht semi-final mauling by Galway, were without five players due to injury, including veteran defender Ross Donovan and deft forward Stephen Coen. Dual star Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch, a Lory Meagher Cup winner with the hurlers at Croke Park earlier in the day, was listed among substitutes.

Sligo's Nathan Rooney and Armagh pair Charlie Vernon and Joe McElroy battle for the ball. Photo: Sportsfile
Sligo's Nathan Rooney and Armagh pair Charlie Vernon and Joe McElroy battle for the ball. Photo: Sportsfile

Armagh, who bounced back from their Ulster quarter-final exit to Fermanagh with a decisive win over Westmeath in round one of the qualifiers, were missing injured attacker Ethan Rafferty.

The counties' only previous meeting in the championship was back 2002, a quarter-final clash that went to a replay which Armagh won. The visitors, comfortable winners over Sligo when the counties met in Division 3 in the spring, struggled to cope with Sligo's initial zest as the men in black led 0-3 to 0-1 by the 10th minute. Liam Gaughan landed two of these early points, the second of which was a goal chance which the centre-forward opted to fist over Blaine Hughes's crossbar.

But Sligo turnovers in their own half were punished by an improving Armagh who shot four points without reply to lead 0-5 to 0-3 after 23 minutes, a recovery that hinged on three classy points from skipper Grugan.

Sligo, however, were showing themselves capable of a response - through pacy attacks and free-taker Liam Gaughan's accuracy - and they went back in front, 0-7 to 0-5, with 32 minutes played.

Sligo's Kyle Cawley in action against Armagh's Patrick Burns. Photo: Sportsfile
Sligo's Kyle Cawley in action against Armagh's Patrick Burns. Photo: Sportsfile

It was Armagh's turn to dominate before the break and they were 0-8 to 0-7 ahead at half-time thanks to fine points from Andrew Murnin, Niall Grimley and Ryan McShane.

The decisive moment was a 39th-minute goal; it was a gift for the excellent Grugan who picked up Sligo goalkeeper Aidan Devaney's short kick-out before planting the ball in the net.

Armagh added to their lead with superb frees from substitute Niall Grimley, and even a wonder point from Sligo's Niall Murphy still left the hosts five points down, 1-13 to 0-11, with 53 minutes on the clock.

Sligo's situation worsened with seven minutes left when veteran forward Adrian Marren received a second booking ,and there was also a red card for Charlie Harrison in stoppage-time.

Sligo bagged a consolation goal in time added on when Cian Breheny netted bravely from close range.

Scorers - Armagh: R Grugan 1-5 (1f); N Grimley 0-6 (4f); R McShane 0-2; J Hall, B Hughes (1f), A Murnin, S Sheridan, J McElroy, C Mackin 0-1 each. Sligo: L Gaughan 0-7 (5f); C Breheny 1-0; N Murphy 0-3 (1f); A Marren 0-2 (2f); S Carrabine 0-1.

Armagh: B Hughes; P Burns, A McKay, G McCabe; M Shields, B Donaghy, A Forker; C Vernon, C Mackin; R Grugan, J Hall, C Higgins; R McShane, A Murnin, O Mac Iomhair. Subs: N Grimley for Forker (31, BC), S Sheridan for Higgins (35); N Rowland for McCabe (57, BC), J McElroy for Mac Iomhair (60), A Duffy for McShane (68), O Lappin for McKay (68).

Sligo: A Devaney; C Harrison, L Nicholson, M Gordon; N Ewing, A McIntyre, C Breheny; K McDonnell, N Murphy; S Carrabine, L Gaughan, P O'Connor; K Cawley, P Hughes, A Marren. Subs: G O'Kelly-Lynch for Breheny (14, blood), G O'Kelly-Lynch for Nicholson (49), C Henry for Gordon (57), F Cawley for Carrabine (65), J Clarke for O'Connor (69), N Rooney for Hughes (69), K Henry for Gaughan (70+2).

Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone)

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