A fortunate goal from Galway’s Damien Cromer in the opening minutes of the second half during Sunday’s All Ireland Qualifier at the Athletic Grounds proved to be the catalyst for the Tribesmen’s win, but there was a lot more between the sides than the three points winning margin would suggest.
Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh team, who have been struggling to find any consistency this season, badly under performed on Sunday and now find themselves once again facing a winter of discontent.
Galway looked like the home team after James Morgan had put his side in front for the one and only time in the game on eight minutes, the winners who held the ball for long periods almost it appeared, hypnotised the Armagh defence who were forced to admire the composure and stealth of Gary Walsh’s side.
Although the absence of skipper Kieran McKeever, Finnian Moriarty and Kevin Dyas may provide the more optimistic supporters with a shade of cold comfort, it was only when the trio of Tony Kernan, Mark Shields and Declan McKenna were introduced that Armagh began to play with pace and passion.
Weathering the failure thus far, Kieran McGeeney and his backroom team will have a mountain to climb over the winter months, but it may take a policy of playing six scoring forwards in their positions to redress the balance which has negated a County team somewhat spoiled by a brief period of history which lasted for less than a decade.
Armagh’s form in Division 3 this season and the crushing defeat to Donegal, set the standard for a team lacking in real leadership and belief.
As a supporter and a manager no-one could question Kieran McGeeney’s dedication to his squad, but the form of several County teams over the recent past may indicate that further lean times lie ahead.
Sifting through the ashes, slight doubts have been cast over a turned down penalty claim which involved Jamie Clarke during a hectic period during the second half, but Meath whistler David Geoff stood motion less as the Rangers man went to ground.
Armagh lost the midfield sector and allowed Galway to implement their sort kick out strategy, Gary Walsh’s side moved the ball with width and purpose before threading precise passes to their dangerous inside trio of Lundy, Comer and O’Griofa, with Armagh number 11 Aidan Forker playing deep Galway centre half Gary O’Donnell swept up behind his midfield to telling effect. Galway showed confidence in their defensive strategies employing just one marker on Jamie Clarke, Cathal Sweeney played in front of the Rangers man blocking out his line of sight with the result that he talented striker registered just once from play.
The visitors led by 2 at the break, three points from Conway were neutralised by strikes from Ethan Rafferty and scores from Morgan and Michael McKenna.
On a plus Stefan Campbell was finding Clarke with some deft touches, but the winners with Silke and Conroy on top pushed the scoring advantage in favour of the visitors, Mathew McNeice got down at his near post on 20 minutes to thwart Galway’s Damien Cromer who moved forward to knock over the last point of the half. Trailing by 2 points and 4 minutes after the re-start Galway hit what proved to be a match winning score, following some indiscipline from the home side a Galway free was moved up and Conroy’s tame effort fell short but was knocked into the net by Cromer.
Leading by 5 Galway galvanised their authority and at last Armagh began to move forward with purpose. Mark Shields and Aidan Forker shot points but in a nervy last 10 both sides missed chances.Closing the game down Galway lost Sweeney and Gary Sice through black cards, they had four subs to use and the tactics to employ them.
The Board will back “their man” and McGeeney despite expected criticism from the fans will be in charge for some considerable time.
Ironically Division 2 in 2016 may even be a bridge too far for a squad lacking flair and intensity.
Are Armagh in eternal decline? Only time will tell on that notion.