Armagh 2-9 Wicklow 0-10
ARMAGH set up a third round qualifier meeting with Ulster rivals Tyrone, following their replay win against Wicklow last Saturday evening in Aughrim, a result which has signalled the end of Mick O’Dwyer’s term as manager of the Garden County.
As it turned out, the Leinster men missed the boat in their initial game at the Athletic Grounds, but it took two opportunistic goals from Jamie Clarke to lower the colours of the underdogs who were unable to reach the same heights on consecutive weekends.
Clarke’s wizardry is now being compared to the skills shown in an orange jersey by Armagh Harps player John Corvan in days past. Corvan, who shot a similar effort to the wicked volley stuck by the Rangers man when Armagh beat Cork in Pairc ui Caoimh in the eighties.
In Aughrim last weekend, the sides were evenly matched as the last ten minutes approached, but it was the experience and industry of the Ulster men which pushed them over the line. Malachy Mackin’s newly-found form saw him involved in both Armagh goals. Following a delivery from Steven Mc Donnell, Mackin knocked the ball down to Jamie Clarke who, with the help of a Wicklow defender, saw his effort squeeze over the line. Clarke, on reflection, bore no celebratory demeanour following his first three-pointer; perhaps the score, scrappy as it was, did not reach his expectation of skill. But if the first was not silky enough, the second certainly was.
Clarke again fed off Mackin, fortuitously enough, before beating Wicklow ‘keeper John Flynn with a clinical volley to the bottom corner. The game wrapped up, the Cross’ man afforded a wry smile.
The Armagh attack, in fairness, showed little to scare Tyrone coming into the next game as they hit just 2-9 across the seventy minutes whilst during the same time clocking up fifteen wides, but Paddy O’Rourke will have been happier with the improvement shown, evidenced by Armagh’s hitting of three unanswered points at the end of the first half; Duffy, O’Rourke and McDonnell the scorers.
It was during this period also where the game, and survival, were secured; the end of the first period and the start of the second saw Armagh score 1-4 to the home side’s 0-2.
In Championship football, however, the only factor which is really remembered is progression and, although tougher than hoped, the Orchard did enough. The banana-skin avoided, next comes a derby in Omagh.