Campbell points way for Armagh
Armagh 0-16 Monaghan 2-9
At the end, the Armagh players stood line in line, high-fiving each other. It's not the most common sight after GAA matches, but you could hardly blame them if they were quietly satisfied with their afternoon's work.
They trailed by five at one stage in the second half, but it could have been much more. Monaghan scored a goal in each half but butchered three more clear chances with Armagh goalkeeper Matthew McNeice making fine interventions on two occasions.
And while the Farney looked more comfortable for long periods, Armagh never went away.
With just over 10 minutes to go, they were three points adrift but from there until the final whistle they fired over five points to Monaghan's solitary injury-time score from a free to secure a win that keeps them in the McKenna Cup shake-up ahead of their clash with Ulster University next weekend.
"I thought they were in it for most of it," Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney reflected afterwards.
"Two goals leave you with a mountain to climb and in fairness, the second one, it was some finish - there's not too many who'd get a hand to it. They fought back and I was happier with the general play. They were thinking about it before they passed it, there were other positives too. A couple of new players played well and we got some fine scores."
Armagh named just 23 players in their match-day squad and McGeeney went on to reveal why he was forced to play with a patched-up side that featured recognised midfielder Aaron Findon starting at full back and the Forker brothers Stefan and Aidan in the wing back slots.
"We didn't have (the players). That's basically it. Because of the weather, we have had to train on a 3G pitch. We trained once last week and we lost two players on it, even though it was only walk-through stuff."
There's no doubt they rode their luck at times. Monaghan could have hit the net three times before the break and squandered another clear chance in the second half.
"If you look at the goals, it's defenders not being aware of some of the space behind them," McGeeney said. "And as you say, they are probably not natural defenders, but some of them played really well. The one thing some of them have is a voice and they are not afraid to talk and communicate so you'd be happy to a point, but you want to stop the soft goals."
The first half was largely unremarkable. By the time the opening quarter had elapsed, Armagh had opened a 0-4 to 0-2 lead, but despite the loss of midfielder Neil McAdam to a black card, Monaghan slowly got on top.
Slick interchanging and hard angles of running cut Armagh's defence apart for the game's opening goal. Daniel McKenna and Owen Duffy were involved in the build-up to put Barry McGinn clear, and he found the net from close range.
Monaghan would go in at half-time leading by 1-6 to 0-7 but Armagh were fortunate to be so close. Duffy would grab Monaghan's second goal with an excellent finish, but it was sandwiched in between two other good chances that might have seen the Latton man hit a hat-trick on another day.
That profligacy left the door open for Armagh and they surged home to consign Monaghan to a second defeat in the competition and end their hopes of progress.
"We'd got ourselves in a great position and we were playing well," Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke commented.
"Owen (Duffy) went through - and he'd kicked one super goal - and he had another chance so we could have been seven or eight points in front, and the game would probably have been over. So we were the architects of our own downfall, we let Armagh stay in the game. In fairness, they finished the game well, they kicked a few good scores, while as the game went on, we found it harder to get scores."
SCORERS - Armagh: S Campbell 0-5 (4f), G McParland, E Rafferty (1f), R Grugan, N McConville 0-2 each, S Forker, A Murnin, M McKenna 0-1. Monaghan: B McGinn 1-4 (4f), O Duffy 1-0, D McKenna 0-2 (1f), K Duffy, C Walshe, K O'Connell 0-1 each.
Armagh: M McNeice; R McCaughley, A Findon, M Murray; S Forker, C McKeever, A Forker; E McVerry, N Grimley; R Grugan, M McKenna, S Campbell; E Rafferty, A Murnin, G McParland. Subs: N McConville for Murnin (9), J Hall for McVerry (45), J Feeney for Findon (60), O McKeever for Grugan (70, BC), P McKenna for McConville (71, BC).
Monaghan: J Smith; K Duffy, D Wylie, N McKeown; D Mone, C Walshe, D Courtney; N McAdam, M Thornton; D Malone, S Gollogly, O Duffy; F McGeough, B McGinn, D McKenna. Subs: K O'Connell for McAdam (BC 14), D Treanor for McGeough (45), K McQuaid for McKeown (50), O Coyle for Courtney (BC, 55), C McKenna for Gollogly (63).
Ref: J McQuillan (Cavan).
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