Ruthless Armagh tear Wicklow apart

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Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
The Carrickcruppen pair of captain Caroline O’Hanlon and full forward Caitlin Malone each netted twice as Armagh ladies handed woeful Wicklow a 45-point pasting at Culloville last Sunday. A rampant Armagh made light of the elements in storming to a facile victory on the remarkable scoreline of 8-26 to 1-2, with the visitors managing only a paltry point in the whole of the second half of this Tesco National League Division Three fixture. On the evidence of this humiliating mismatch, these sides won’t be facing each other next year with All Ireland Intermediate champions Armagh strong favourites for promotion and Wicklow already looking like prime candidates to drop into the lowest tier of the league. All Star O’Hanlon led the way with a tally of 2-5 while her young club-mate Malone (2-1) also scored more than the entire visiting team as did the skipper’s fellow midfielder Sinead McCleary (2-3), corner forward Kelly Mallon (1-4) and sharp-shooting sub Caroline O’Hare. Dromintee’s O’Hare kicked six points from play in spite of featuring for just over half the match while another of last October’s Croke Park subs, Malone, can take confidence from finding the net twice. The strapping medical student has been handed a golden opportunity to nail down the crucial full forward position left vacant by the retirement over the winter of stalwart Shauna O’Hagan and has generally repaid manager James Daly’s statement of faith. But with regular skipper Mags McAlinden’s imminent return from injury leaving one less starting spot in the forward line to fight for, the ever-increasing competition for places will hopefully push Malone and her rivals to new heights. O’Hare’s eye-catching contribution off the bench will have been noted, while the three players promoted to last Sunday’s starting line-up – Siobhan Mackle, Mairead Tennyson and Cailin Duffy – were all almong 11 Armagh scorers on the day. Silverbridge veteran Tennyson came in for Dromintee youngster Sinead McCoy at wing forward on the back of a significant cameo which had helped Armagh snatch a dramatic draw with Down in their league opener at Clonduff seven days earlier. Having landed a crucial late point then, she scored a goal this time while Grange’s Mackle kicked two points, though the player whose place she had taken, St Peter’s teenager Ciara Lennon, also got in on the act with a point when brought on as a sub. Young Duffy, who like Tennyson and O’Hare had got a late run on the big stage at Croke Park, was handed a start at wing back in place of Niamh Henderson, the highly rated baby of the All Ireland Intermediate winning team. Slightly surprisingly given that the hosts scored an incredible 34 times in the hour, Duffy was the only Armagh defender to get on the board but the orange rearguard did their primary job in only allowing Wicklow three scores all afternoon and continually launching fresh attacks. Lissummon stalwart Caoimhe Morgan got another outing under her belt as she attempts to regain match fitness a mere three months after giving birth and selection will be interesting when experienced corner back Clodagh McCann is available again after a work trip. Rising star Fionnuala McKenna kicked two points from centre half forward having moved infield to cover for McAlinden’s absence in these first few matches and the third Carrickcruppen player in the starting line-up, Marian McGuinness, chipped in with one. The one-sided nature of this clash enabled Daly to parade a long list of subs, with a total of 26 players seeing some action in the Orchard cause – including eight who weren’t in the Croke Park panel four months ago. It won’t always be as easy as this but hitting the half-century of scores was the perfect way for Armagh to mark their first outing on home soil since memorably lifting the Mary Quinn Cup in October. A return to headquarters for the senior final next autumn might be a tall order but Armagh are a very strong side for third division football and will make the trip west on Sunday as favourites to pick up a first away win of 2013. They are up against a Sligo side who will be anxious to atone for a surprisingly emphatic home defeat at the hands of Down, but that result should ensure Daly’s ladies travel with confidence that they can get the job done. Albeit that he had just come in a year ago as the new manager, the fact that Daly has fielded very close to the strongest side he can in the opening games this term – compared to the experimental league line-ups of last season – underlines how important promotion is to Armagh. Sunday showed however that he will readily give game-time to the newer names once the more established stars have asserted Armagh’s superiority against lesser opposition and of course the average age of the full strength side is impressively low in any case. ARMAGH: K Daly; C Morgan, L Brown, S Marley; S Reel, N Marley, C Duffy (0-1); C O’Hanlon (capt, 2-5), S McCleary (2-3); M McGuinness (0-1), F McKenna (0-2), M Tennyson (1-0); S Mackle (0-2), C Malone (2-1), K Mallon (1-4).  Subs used – C O’Hare (0-6), C Lennon (0-1), S Grey, C Haddock, R Murphy, L Murphy, E McCormack, S Feeney, C O’Callaghan, D Morgan, S McCoy.  Subs not used – N Henderson, R O’Reilly, N Finnegan.
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