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O’Connor left to rue gamble on wind advantage as Armagh triumph

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Armagh’s Joe McElroy jumps into action to win possession ahead of team-mate Mark Shields and Kildare’s Paul Cribbin at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Armagh’s Joe McElroy jumps into action to win possession ahead of team-mate Mark Shields and Kildare’s Paul Cribbin at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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Armagh’s Joe McElroy jumps into action to win possession ahead of team-mate Mark Shields and Kildare’s Paul Cribbin at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Kildare gambled and lost in the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night but manager Jack O’Connor believes they can still be in the shake-up for promotion in six weeks’ time.

Such was the force of the wind and rain, referee David Coldrick did two pre-match safety inspections before the fixture eventually got the green light.

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David Hyland of Kildare in action against Aidan Nugent, left, and Joe McElroy of Armagh. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

David Hyland of Kildare in action against Aidan Nugent, left, and Joe McElroy of Armagh. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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The visitors still opted to play against the elements despite winning the toss. Afterwards O’Connor brushed aside a question on the issue stating “actually I’m not sure about that”.

Granted, up until the midway point to the first half which lasted 41 minutes, their strategy had worked. Keith Cribbin was very effective as their sweeper though Armagh’s decision to have just one player inside the opponent’s 20m line was not designed to take advantage of the elements.

Pivotal

But then everything changed. Armagh went from being 0-2 to 0-1 up after 21 minutes to lead by seven at the break (0-8 to 0-1). The introduction of Jamie Clarke in the 28th minute was pivotal – he scored two points before the break.

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Jamie Clarke of Armagh in action against Keith Cribbin of Kildare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Jamie Clarke of Armagh in action against Keith Cribbin of Kildare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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Though they kicked seven first-half wides and missed two goal chances, Armagh’s accuracy improved in the second quarter with Stefan Campbell hitting a sweet brace. The game still looked in the mix though, but within seven minutes of the resumption it was virtually over as a contest.

At first the omens were promising for Kildare. Armagh squandered two goal chances – and had Clarke red-carded in the 37th minute after he caught Shea Ryan in the face with his elbow. He had already been booked for his alleged role in a melee which erupted as the players left the field at the break. Crucially the home side also kicked four early unanswered points against the gale. This extended their lead to 11 points which essentially put the game beyond the visitors’ reach.

“The better team won,” acknowledged O’Connor. 

“It always takes a lot out of a team to play against the wind. They started the second half very well getting three of four points which was a bit of a hammer blow.”

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Paddy Burns of Armagh in action against Paddy Brophy of Kildare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Paddy Burns of Armagh in action against Paddy Brophy of Kildare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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Though Kildare have now suffered back-to-back defeats O’Connor is not giving up on their promotion ambitions.

“We have eight points to play for with three games at home (against Roscommon, Cavan and Westmeath). I think we would be in the shake-up if we had 10 points. But look, it is important to batten

down the hatches now, stick together and get our head around for the next game.”

With just one home game left against Roscommon and facing Westmeath, Fermanagh and Clare away, Armagh could not afford a second loss on the spin.

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Tommy Moolick of Kildare in action against Niall Grimley of Armagh. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Tommy Moolick of Kildare in action against Niall Grimley of Armagh. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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“The way the League is coming at you it is easy to slip and if you don’t get back up it can really hammer you,” said Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney. “But it gives players a chance to bounce back fairly quickly and in fairness to our boys they did that. It probably wasn’t football that won it in the end it was digging a wee bit deep.

“We are happy but I get no joy in beating Kildare,” said the current Armagh and former Kildare boss.

Scorers – Armagh: R O’Neill 0-4 (3f), S Campbell,

J Clarke, A Nugent (m) 0-2 each, N Grimley, O O’Neill, A Forker (f), S Sheridan, C Cumiskey, M Shields 0-1 each. Kildare: P Brophy 0-4, A Tyrrell (2f) 0-3, P Cribbin, D Flynn, J Robinson 0-1 each.

Armagh – B Hughes 7; C O’Neill 7, A Forker 9, P Burns 7; M Shields 7, S Sheridan 7, C Cumiskey 7; N Grimley 7, J óg Burns 8; O O’Neill 8, S Campbell 8, J McElroy 7; C Turbitt 5, R O’Neill 8, A Nugent 8. Subs: J Clarke 7 for Turbitt (28), J Morgan 6 for C O’Neill (46), G McCabe 5 for Nugent (68), B Donaghy for Shields (69), A McKay for Cumiskey (70+1).

Kildare – M Donnellan 9; P Kelly 7, M O’Grady 5, S Ryan 7; K Flynn 7, D Hyland 7, C Kavanagh 6; K Feely 7, T Moolick 6; P Cribbin 7, P Brophy 8, K Cribbin 8; N Kelly 5, D Flynn 5, J  Hyland 5. Subs: N Flynn for O’Grady (ht), A Tyrrell 7 for Hyland (45), J Byrne 6 for Kavanagh (46) J Robinson 5 for Moolick (56), L Power 5 for Kelly (66).

Ref –  D Coldrick (Meath).

Irish Independent