Monday 22 January 2018

Late charge sees Armagh over the line at the expense of Westmeath

Westmeath 1-7 Armagh 1-12

Rory Grugan of Armagh in action against Kelvin Reilly of Westmeath
Rory Grugan of Armagh in action against Kelvin Reilly of Westmeath

Francis Mooney

Armagh’s late charge saw them home in a bruising Round 2B Football Qualifier at Mullingar last night.

A scoring blitz by a trio of substitues did the trick for Kieran McGeeney’s side as they made it through to tomorrow’s draw.

Ethan Rafferty banged in a goal, and there were points from Strefan Campbell and Oisin O’Neill as the Ulstermen survived.

Westmeath retored pride following their Leinsetr SFC semi-final mauling by the Dubs to face down the Orchard with a courageous, battling display, but in the end their finishing let them down.

Armagh lost two key players to black cards inside the opening quarter, ace attacker walking after less than a minute, followed by his Crossmaglen clubmate James Morgan on 17 minutes.

But they recovered from a shaky start to go in front with two superb Gavin McParland scores and a Niall Grimley free.

Westmeath had gone ahead with two points from John Heslin, who was also denied a goal by Aaron McKay’s perfectly timed tackle.

Stephen Sheridan and Grimley gave the Orchard an edge around midfield, and they shot four on the spin early in the second quarter, with McParland firing over another special, and skipper Rory Grugan converting a couple of frees.

At 0-7 to 0-3, the Ulster men appeared to have exerted a measure of control on the contest, but on the half-hour, the home side crafted a goal.

Heslin, Mark McCallon, Paul Sharry moved the ball quickly through the hands, and it was Frank Boyle who got his shot away. Blaine Hughes pulled off a splendid save but Sharry followed up to net from the rebound.

And a Heslin free, his fourth score, levelled it at 1-4 to 0-7 in stoppage time, and he had his side two ahead soon after the restart.

However, Westmeath were punished for sloppy defending, with Grugan and Aidan Forker capitalising on turnovers as the Ulster men went level again.

For a second time, Heslin was kept out as he went for goal, ‘keeper Blaine Hughes keeping out his firmly struck shot.

Armagh were reduced to 14 men when substitute Gregory McCabe, who had already been booked, was black-carded in the 55th minute, but they went back in front when substitute Oisin O’Neill charged through to score.

The loss of the excellent John Egan to a black card was a blow to Westmeath, but his replacement, Alan Gaughan, shot the lead point with three minutes to play

Westmeath scorers: P Sharry 1-0, J Heslin 0-6 (4f), A Gaughan 0-1

Armagh scorers: E Rafferty 1-0, R Grugan (2f), G McParland 0-3 each, O O’Neill 0-2, N Grimley (f), S Sheridan, A Forker, S Campbell 0-1 each

Westmeath: D Quinn; M McCallion, K Maguire, J Gonoud; D Lynch, F Boyle, J Dolan; P Sharry, G Egan; J Egan, K Martin, S Duncan; K Reilly, J Heslin, K Daly.

Subs: T McDaniel for G Egan (27), C McCormack for Reilly (54), A Stone for Duncan (55), N Mulligan for Lynch (59) A Gardiner for McCallon (BC 65), A Gaughan for J Egan (BC 65)

Armagh: B Hughes; A McKay, C Vernon, P Hughes; A Forker, B Donaghy, J Morgan; S Sheridan, N Grimley; C O’Hanlon, A Duffy, R Grugan; J Clarke, A Murnin, G McParland.

Subs: S Campbell for Clarke (BC 1), G McCabe for Morgan (BC 18), M Shields for  McKay (44), O O’Neill for Duffy (44), C McKeever for McParland (56), E Rafferty for O’Hanlon (65)

Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry).

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