Orchard dream dashed by a last gasp goal

Armagh's Niamh Henderson under pressure.

Armagh's Niamh Henderson under pressure.

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ARMAGH 0-11 DOWN 2-6

ARMAGH ladies suffered defeat for the first time in over a year as Down sensationally snatched an unlikely victory in Saturday’s Tesco HomeGrown National League final in Dublin.

The Division Three table toppers led from the second minute of the derby decider until the last minute of normal time at Parnell Park and for most of the afternoon looked comfortably on course for an eighth straight win.

But Down substitute Hazel Jordan put the ball in the back of the net with her first touch in the first minute of injury-time and although Armagh rallied with two more points from full forward Sinead McCleary it was too little, too late.

It was another magnificent comeback by Down, who had needed two injury-time goals to sneak past Longford in last month’s semi-final, which left the Orchard outfit broken hearted and empty handed.

As well as the title, the trophy and bragging rights between neighbours, the Mourne women claimed the all-important promotion place and condemned the All Ireland Intermediate champions to another year in Division Three.

Being pipped at the post was a bitter blow for an Armagh team who were hotly tipped to go up having won every match since drawing with Down in the opening game of the season in early February.

That day it took two injury-time points from McCleary to salvage a share of the spoils in Hilltown, but the Clann Eireann star’s repeat performance – including matching her tally of six last time – still left Armagh one short with captain Caroline O’Hanlon admitting her team had only themselves to blame.

It was a dramatic collapse by James Daly’s side who had raced into a five-point lead inside the first seven minutes with a strong wind at their back but failed to hammer home that advantage and eventually paid the price.

Down were let off the hook in a scoreless second quarter though Armagh went seven up with two points from McCleary shortly after the teams turned around and were still five ahead coming into the home straight.

But the tide turned dramatically when Player of the Match Kyla Trainor found the net on 53 minutes and Armagh surprisingly panicked in spite of the experience contained in the Orchard ranks.

The force was with Down as they picked off two more points to draw level before nailing that decisive second goal and although the women in orange finally fired again their frantic comeback bid simply ran out of time.

ARMAGH: K Daly; C Morgan, L Brown, S Marley; S Reel, N Marley, C McCann; C Malone, C O’Hanlon (capt; 0-2); M McGuinness, F McKenna (0-2), M Tennyson; N Henderson, S McCleary (0-6, 2f), K Mallon (0-1). Subs – S Grey for Tennyson (51 mins), C Lennon for Mallon (54), M McAlinden for McKenna (62).