Armagh edge out Monaghan in league opener

Monaghan 1-12 Armagh 1-14

Armagh began their National League campaign with a win this evening, defeating near neighbours Monaghan by two points.

The first half was a slow burner and never really burst into life. Monaghan were arguably the better team and led by three after 20 minutes, with some poor shooting letting Armagh down.

Kieran McGeeney’s side had 16 shots in the opening 35 minutes but finished the half with 1-4 to their name, while Monaghan lost Jack McCarron to a hamstring injury early on.

Aidan Nugent opened the scoring, before Michael Bannigan equalised. Conor Boyle and Dessie Ward, who caused Armagh problems early on, combined to send the hosts ahead.

Rory Beggan and Michael Bannigan slotted over frees but Ethan Rafferty, assisted by Aidan Forker, finally ended Armagh’s dry spell.

Stephen O’Hanlon pointed, and his score was matched by Rian O’Neill. Beggan had a nightmare from the resulting kickout, knocking it straight to Tiernan Kelly.

Kelly’s goal-bound effort beat Beggan to the line and suddenly Armagh were ahead by one. Sean Jones levelled while Rory Grugan and Conor McCarthy exchanged scores to make it 1-4 to 0-7 at half time.

Armagh burst out of the traps in the second half and dominated possession of the ball, and the Monaghan kickout. Beggan lost all six of his restarts in the third quarter and Armagh made them pay.

O’Neill (2), Andrew Murnin (2), Nugent and Stephen Sheridan all pointed to make six the difference. But the game was far from over and Monaghan were determined to battle back and soon dwindled the margin to just two.

Conor McCarthy laced over a close range free before a Farney forward latched onto the Armagh kickout. The ball was worked into the square and the Monaghan man was upended, leaving Sean Hurson with no choice but to award a penalty.

McCarthy cool dispatched to the corner, sending Rafferty the wrong way, while O’Hanlon grabbed his second to make it a one-point game.

O’Neill (free) and Bannigan traded scores before two Stefan Campbell points gave Armagh some much needed breathing space. Shane Carey narrowed the gap, while Bannigan cancelled out a fisted Ross McQuillan score.

That was as close as the hosts could get, and Armagh left St Mary’s Castleblayney happy, with two points in the bag.

Armagh: Ethan Rafferty 0-1, Aaron McKay, Aidan Forker, Ross Finn, Conor O’Neill, Barry McCambridge, Jarly Og Burns, Stephen Sheridan 0-1 (1f), Stefan Campbell 0-2, Jemar Hall, Rory Grugan 0-1 (1f), Tiernan Kelly 1-0, Rian O’Neill 0-4 (2f), Andrew Murnin 0-2 (1f), Aidan Nugent 0-2.
Subs: Jason Duffy for J. Hall, Niall Grimley for S. Sheridan, Ross McQuillan 0-1 for A. Murnin.

Monaghan: Rory Beggan 0-1 (1f), Thomas McPhillips, Kieran Duffy, Ryan Wylie, Conor Boyle, Dessie Ward 0-1, Kevin Loughran, Killian Lavelle, Colm Lennon, Stephen O’Hanlon 0-2, Michael Bannigan 0-4 (1f), Joel Wilson, Conor McCarthy 1-2 (1pen 1f), Jack McCarron, Shane Carey 0-1.
Subs: Sean Jones 0-1 for J. McCarron, Karl O’Connell for C. Lennon, Karl Gallagher for J. Wilson.

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