First win in Kerry in almost 30 years

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KERRY 0-10 ARMAGH 2-8

ARMAGH recorded their first win on Kerry soil in almost 30 years when they proved too powerful for the Munster men last Saturday night under the lights in Austin Stacks Park, Tralee.

Stacking the odds against an away win the bookmakers had the visitors quoted at even money plus seven points but it was Kerry boss Jack O’Connor who left disappointed at the Kingdom’s fans who rose to their feet to boo their team off the field.

Last season’s beaten All-Ireland finalists must be sick of the sight of Ulster teams. Modernly the green and golds have had little success against the “northern hoardes” who are currently circling their wagons.

The Red Hands dazzled with brilliance last wekend but can Armagh now move forward with quiet confidence or reject a false dawn in the hope that the peaking of form will arrive bang on time for the summer’s championship onslaught.

The late Kieran McGurk’s goal in Killorglin all those years ago copper-fastened an historic victory and it was somewhat fitting that the Kieran McGurk Perpetual Trophy was handed over last Saturday night at the Sarsfields presentation evening for the first time ever, ironically just when the news was filtering through of the four points win in Tralee.

Kerry were slick in Croke Park in their league opener. They created over 40 chances against the Dubs but they created little on Saturday night against a growing in stature Armagh rearguard, marshalled by Brendan Donaghy who is without doubt a prince amongst full backs.

Goals at crucial times were crucial in the win. Brian Mallon’s run to the far post inside the first quarter was rewarded when Caolin Rafferty found the Tir na nOg man with an eye of a needle pass. Mallon, in his best role and best performance to date, made no mistake from seven yards.

The second of Armagh’s two goals arrived amidst a mini Kerry revival. The revived Malachy Mackin, who is now a leader in every sense of the word, floated a ball in to the towering John Kingham and the midfielder turned striker blotted out his bad memories of his league debut to palm the ball past Kealey in the losers’ goal.

Irrespective of what turn events will take when Crossmaglen face Doctor Croke’s at the weekend Colm Cooper is always badly missed.

Bryan Sheehan, Seanie O’Sullivan, John O’Donoghue and Declan O’Sullivan were the Kingdom’s scorers from play but Aidan Forker, 0-4, Mal Mackin, Colm Watters and the impressive Brian Mallon, 1-1, showed a hunger for scores which outshone the hosts.

Both sides finished with 14 men. Thomas O’Se was ordered off for what appeared to have been a “high knee” on Ciaran McKeever and Wolfe Tones player Finnian Moriarity received a second yellow card close to the end.

But there was no catching the Ulster men. Although an injury ruled out Stephan Campbell out, the talent is surfacing particularly in relation to badly needed, mobile and skillful half forwards.

While the bookies were being somewhat stingy concerning the short odds being offered for Kerry’s chances last Saturday night, the 40|1 odds regarding Armagh’s chances of landing a prize on the third sunday in September won’t be tumbling just yet,

The equilibrium of all of this could be borne out against a lesser light of the calibre of Laois or Mayo who travel to Armagh in two weeks time.

If a win and a draw can be described as consistency then Paddy O’Rourke’s team are on a roll.

Sticking their heads above the parapet, the stars of minor All-Ireland glory three seasons ago are beginning to come to the fore.

McPartland, Grugan and Murnin are also knocking at the door. All three could have dazzling futures if patience is shown.

There is no doubt that Paul Grimley has the players performing for the jersey once more but Paddy O’Rourke deserves equal credit.

Against all the odds and irrespective of what lies ahead the Tralee outing was a total success in terms of planning and implementation.

As for Jack O’Connor’s team they will dust themselves down and return to the buisness end of things sooner rather than later.

In the meantime Brian Mallon and John Kingham can be spoken off in the same breath as the player who as a mere 19 year old put Killorglin on the map and kick-started a glistening career which resulted in his club honouring one of Armagh’s all time greats.

In more modern times league and championship form can be more closely linked. The possibility of Armagh retaining their division one status has been greatly enhanced by events in Tralee last weekend.