Unlucky defeat for Armagh

TWO former Armagh heroes, and the current county boss, all drew blanks last weekend during the first round of NFL games.

All-Ireland winning captain Kieran McGeeney saw his Kildare side crash heavily at home to Down whilst former Armagh manager Joe Kernan was disappointed with his new charges, Galway, who lost out to Connacht rivals Mayo.

The most important result of the weekend to local gaels, however, was the Armagh team’s unlucky defeat to Meath in Navan on Saturday evening.

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The Ulstermen brought their scoring average to a slightly higher level than supporters have been accustomed to during the County’s NFL games but, without Ronan Clarke, they came away empty-handed despite playing to a credible standard under the gaze of Setanta Sports cameras and the Pairc Tailteann lights.

Ciaran McKeever returned to the heart of the defence and Clarke’s withdrawal saw a starting position given to Gareth Swift. Ryan Henderson started alongside Steven McDonnell up front and James Lavery partnered Kieran Toner in the midfield sector.

Perhaps it is fortunate that Paddy O’Rourke’s side face Westmeath next time out. The Midlanders fell heavily to Donegal last weekend in Mullingar and the Leinster side would be viewed among the weaker sides within the division.

Sunday’s home advantage may be helpful to the Orchard but O’Rourke will know that a result is far from guaranteed.

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Despite the one point defeat, Paddy O’Rourke found took positives from the proceedings. He said: “On the run of play, we probably deserved a draw, but the Meath goals saw us chasing the game at the start of both halves”.

Pairc Tailteann has, over the past few years, proven a difficult venue for Armagh and the supporters who travelled to the game will barely have found their seat in the stand before Stephen Bray pounced on the parried shot from his brother David, who tested Paul Hearty with the original effort.

Meath’s second goal, just one minute after the break, was a real blow for the visitors. John Queeney, who stole behind the Armagh defence, collected the ball with ease behind Brendan Donaghy and coolly picked his spot and beat a helpless Paul Hearty without much difficulty.

Although the eventual losers’ response to both setbacks was commendable, some bad misses were, in the end, costly.

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Again it was Steven McDonnell who led the attack, the Killeavey striker hit six points in all, four of which came from play.

Defenders Finnian Moriarty and Aaron Kernan also got their names onto the scoresheet. Ryan Henderson, Charlie Vernon each struck a brace with Joe Feeney also chipping in. Points will be at a premium in a very competitive division II this season.

All Orchard gaels will be hoping to see a wounded Armagh seek revenge for last week’s defeat against Meath’s neighbours Westmeath to see their accounts opened and hopefully a push up the table can result.

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