Armagh turned in an amazing second half performance to record a comprehensive 0-15 to 0-11 victory over Dublin in round three of the Bank of Ireland All-Ireland qualifiers at Croke Park today. The first half opened frenetically with Armagh opening the scoring through Oisin McConville and Dublin replying from the boot of veteran forward Dessie Farrell.
In an action-packed, entertaining opening Dublin then added points from Ray Cosgrove, Darren Homan and Jason Sherlock while Armagh responded with scores from Diarmuid Marsden, Steven McDonnell and Paddy McKeever. Dublin were let off the hook in the 7th minute when Armagh missed a good goal-scoring chance when McDonnell fumbled a high ball into him from midfield and allowed goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton to save.
The pace of the match dropped considerably as the half wore on with Dublin always slightly ahead on the scoreboard but no doubt ruing the amount of wides they were accumulating, amassing almost ten in the first half. Armagh were not playing particularly well and they began to lose their temper in the closing stages of the half and Dublin had Cosgrove's frees to thank for their four point half time lead on a scoreline of 0-08 to 0-04.
The second half started even more frantically than the first and continued in that vein. There were fisticuffs from the beginning and within minutes Armagh's McKeever was sent-off after punching Homan in an off-the-ball incident. While all this was going on, McDonnell was waiting to take a free, which he duly converted.
The unnecessary indiscretions continued and Cluxton was sent-off for kicking an Armagh man and McDonnell pointed the resulting free to reduce the deficit to two points. Yet another free for Armagh was pointed by McDonnell, which he followed with a fine individual effort to level the scores at 0-08 apiece.
John McEntee then put Armagh ahead for the first time, followed by a point from McGrane to put Armagh two points ahead and leave Dublin stunned. Jason Sherlock put over a well worked point to keep them in touch, but McEntee was having an inspired game and kicked a fine point to re-establish Armagh's two point cushion.
The two sides then traded points for a time, beginning with a free-kick from Cosgrove. Marsden hit back for Armagh, Farrell for Dublin and John McEntee scored his first of the game, with substitute Ronan Clarke also kicking over to leave Dublin needing a goal. Dublin never got near the Armagh goal and in the 72nd minute McEntee sealed the game with a fine point after he found himself in acres of space to seal a deserved victory and ensure Joe Kernan's men remain on course to retain their All-Ireland crown.
Filed by Barry J Whyte