Home semi just what the doctor ordered: Armagh 1-10 Tipperary 2-6

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Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
GAA Club News and Events, Sport

Armagh booked a home semi-final in Division Three of the Tesco Homegrown ladies National League in spite of two of their most experienced players spending part of Easter Sunday in Daisy Hill Hospital.

An injured Caitlin Malone goes back on to the field of play

Captain Caroline O’Hanlon came to the Silverbridge venue straight from working the night shift there as a doctor to lead the Orchard ladies into action against opponents who handed Down a 19-point thrashing a week earlier.

Undeterred by that lack of sleep, the All Star still produced a typically purposeful performance rounded off with the winning point from a free late on, but what wasn’t scheduled was Sharon Reel’s visit to the same hospital’s casualty department.

A quarter of an hour into the contest, O’Hanlon must have thought she was still on doctor duty when called upon to tend to what looked like a serious facial injury for Reel who was eventually helped off with a badly displaced cheekbone.

On a day when full back Laura Brown, Player of the Match in last autumn’s All Ireland Intermediate final, had joined the list of Armagh heavyweights sidelined by injury and other reasons, losing the experienced Reel was a major blow.

The casualty list could have been longer on an afternoon when two clashes of heads involving Armagh team-mates resulted in nothing worse than some stitches for Carrickcruppen’s Caitlin Malone, who returned to the field as Reel left.

Especially considering the difficult circumstances, Armagh manager James Daly was taking plenty of positives from this valuable victory against a determined Tipp team who came down from the second division last year.

This result not only keeps Armagh top of the Division Three table but secures a home semi-final for the promotion-seeking Orchard outfit and means a point at Longford next weekend will guarantee they finish in first place.

With so many seasoned campaigners missing, the younger generation stepped up impressively with exciting teenage talents Fionnuala McKenna and Niamh Henderson shining brightly in contributing 1-5 between them.

Young goalkeeper Katie Daly played her part with one blinding save at a critical time, Niamh Marley took extra responsibility in the absence of Brown and Sinead McCleary, two players who normally perform core defensive duties for this team.

Marian McGuinness had a great game for Armagh

Rookie corner back Cailin Duffy showed she can contend for a regular starting spot in spite of fierce competition for places in the last line of defence and, not for the first time, sub Shauna Grey had a great game after initially coming on as a blood replacement for Malone and then taking over from Reel.

Full of confidence after scoring all but two points in Armagh’s victory away to previously unbeaten league leaders Leitrim last week, McKenna was typically purposeful and topped the charts for the second Sunday running.

The hot Harps prospect cancelled out Tipp’s opening score with a free a minute after drawing a blank with her first attempt and then in the wake of Reel’s sad departure provided the perfect tonic with a stunning goal.

Her strong run was followed by the most calculating of finishes on an afternoon that Armagh repeatedly produced the right response in the face of adversity.

Just as McKenna’s goal was a big boost at the time, likewise skipper O’Hanlon’s inspirational point and the scoring spree that followed in injury-time was just the way to hit back when Tipperary were gifted a soft goal coming towards the interval.

Rather than dwell on failing to get the ball away from their own goalmouth, the Orchard crew replied through O’Hanlon’s surging run from deep and her impressive point was followed by one each from Henderson, Marian McGuinness and Kelly Mallon.

O’Hanlon and McKenna mixed threatening runs with fantastic fielding while the dynamic movement of Henderson and Grey gave Tipperary plenty to think about, though the visitors also looked lively when it was their turn to attack.

That blitz in first half stoppage time sent Armagh in two points in front and although they were rocked by a second visiting goal within the opening minute of the second period, once again the setback seemed to bring the best out of the team in orange.

McGuinness got another point, McKenna kicked her second free and Henderson ensured another drifting run by O’Hanlon received reward on the scoreboard but Tipp proved very hard to kill off.

Armagh’s Caroline O’Hanlon fires over the winning point

They got back on level terms either side of Henderson’s third point and, although Armagh kept pressing, several block downs underlined the commitment of the visitors to at least leave with a share of the spoils.

But eventually Armagh got their chance with a free from almost directly in front of the posts and O’Hanlon landed the winning point to give her team a fifth victory on the trot since drawing with Down in the season opener.

Daly’s ladies finish their programme with a trip to Longford who, like Tipperary, are coming off the back of a great result, in their case a victory over a Leitrim team who had a 100 percent record until beaten by Armagh in round five.

The match is a repeat of last September’s All Ireland Intermediate semi-final which Armagh won well and, on their own patch, Longford will be determined to show how much they have progressed since then so it should be another good test.

ARMAGH: K Daly; C Duffy, C Morgan, S Marley; S Reel, N Marley, S McCoy; C Malone, C O’Hanlon (capt; 0-2, 1f); C McCann, F McKenna (1-2, 2f), M McGuinness (0-2); N Henderson (0-3), K Mallon, C Lennon.  Subs – S Grey for Malone (6 mins), Malone for Reel (19 mins), M Tennyson for Lennon (25 mins), D Morgan for Duffy (40 mins).


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