Thursday 24 May 2018

Rafferty kick-starts cruise for Armagh

Armagh 1-15 Offaly 1-9

Nigel Dunne of Offaly in action against Joe McElroy of Armagh. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Nigel Dunne of Offaly in action against Joe McElroy of Armagh. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Brian Lowry

Armagh recorded a routine win in Tullamore yesterday as they held onto the top spot in Division 3 by comfortably easing past Offaly.

It was by no means vintage Armagh, who didn't hit top gear but they still had enough to get over an Offaly side who, despite playing second fiddle for the majority of the game, never threw in the towel.

Paul Hughes of Armagh in action against Nigel Dunne of Offaly Photo: Sportsfile
Paul Hughes of Armagh in action against Nigel Dunne of Offaly Photo: Sportsfile

It was all Armagh in the early stages with Ethan Rafferty starting sharply. The corner-forward kicked two of Armagh's opening four scores as they led 0-4 to 0-1 after six minutes.

Nigel Dunne was keeping Offaly in touch but Armagh centre-back Gregory McCabe raided upfield to find the net from the rebound after the energetic Rafferty saw his initial effort come back off the crossbar.

Trailing by 1-5 to 0-2, Offaly could have fallen away but they came straight down the field and found the net themselves when Sean Doyle stole a march and slipped his effort into the corner of the net.

Armagh regained control though and with Andrew Murnin now enjoying a period of dominance at full-forward, they raced into a 1-9 to 1-3 lead with seven minutes left to half-time. The remainder of the half went flat enough but the Armagh men remained in control, leading 1-10 to 1-5 at the break.

Offaly manager Stephen Wallace directs the action Photo: Sportsfile
Offaly manager Stephen Wallace directs the action Photo: Sportsfile

After that, Armagh picked up where they left off with Charlie Vernon and Niall Rowland kicking scores before Ethan Rafferty kicked his fourth of the day to put them 1-13 to 1-5 ahead on 50 minutes.

Offaly got their opening score of the half on 51 minutes through Michael Brazil but it only briefly interrupted Armagh who despite not being in top gear, were still cruising.

The final 15 minutes were a poor show. Armagh were happy enough to retain possession but when it came to the final product, they lacked potency.

Charlie Vernon kicked their first score in 14 minutes with seven minutes to play to open out a six-point gap. Both sides exchanged scores in the closing minutes as Kieran McGeeney's troops ensured their place on top of the table, courtesy of superior points difference over fellow unbeaten Ulster rivals Fermanagh.

Irish Independent

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