When it Rian’s it pours!

Two second half Rian O’Neill goals were enough to see off Monaghan in what proved to be a comfortable 8 point win for the Orchard County in Clones yesterday evening. Armagh were the better team throughout and fully deserved their win as they now await their fate in the draw for round 3 of the qualifiers on Monday morning.

Jack McCarron opened the scoring within the first minute before a confident and attack minded Armagh levelled the game two minutes later through Mark Shields. A Conor McManus free was cancelled out by Brendan Donaghy while Kieran Hughes and Jarly Og Burns also traded scores to tie the game 0-3 each after 7 minutes of play.

Rian O’Neill opened his account before club mate Paul Hughes stole forward to hand Armagh a two point advantage. McManus chipped over two more scores; his second a beauty from near the sideline, although this was the only time throughout the game McManus was able to demonstrate his class as Aidan Forker kept a tight rein on the Clontibret man.  

A Stefan Campbell point in between McManus’ double kept Armagh’s noses in front before they really found their groove with the hard working Jemar Hall and Aidan Nugent  both firing over one point each to give their side a comfortable three point lead, 0-8 to 0-5 after 21 minutes of play.

A converted Rory Beggan 45 dragged Monaghan back into contention and the Farney men began to dominate the play with Armagh struggling to retain the ball from their own restarts. Beggan struck once more from 45 metres before McManus curled over his third point of the evening to tie the game.

Monaghan then went ahead through Michael Bannigan before Jamie Clarke struck to see the side’s level once again. Conor McCarthy and Jemar Hall swapped points while Andrew Murnin’s first score was perhaps the most important of the first half as it saw Armagh head into the changing rooms a point to the good, 0-11 to 0-10.

The first score was vital at the start of the third quarter and Armagh came flying out of the traps, reeling off the first three points from Niall Grimley, Jarly Og Burns and Aidan Forker. It was 13 minutes into the second period when the first green flag of the evening was raised; Aidan Nugent’s flying run through the heart of the defence saw his shot blocked down by the advancing Beggan. The ball spilled to O’Neill who only had one thing on his mind and his score shot Armagh 7 points ahead.

Monaghan had to attack the game to have any hope of remaining in the championship and they did so vigorously but it was to their detriment as it left the Armagh attack with oceans of space ahead of them. Jamie Clarke knocked over a free before Dessie Ward pulled one back for Monaghan but then disaster struck for the hosts as O’Neill again found himself in the right position to blast the ball into Rory Beggan’s goal, Armagh now 10 points in front.

McManus and Clarke swapped free before Jack McCarron rattled the net at the other end of the park to put some pressure on Armagh but it was too little too late as Charlie Vernon stroked over the insurance point 6 minutes into additional time to give Armagh an impressive 2-17 to 1-12 victory.

Armagh had stars all over the pitch and provided their follows with perhaps their most complete performance under the watchful eye of Kieran McGeeney. Aidan Forker gave a memorable display in his own full back line, sacrificing his game to block out the threat of Conor McManus, while matching the Monaghan attacker for scores from play, with one point each.

Rian O’Neill took the Monaghan defence for 2-1 while Armagh had an incredible 13 different scorers throughout the 70 minutes with each starting forward getting their name on the score sheet in the opening half. Armagh will look forward to next weekend’s encounter no matter who the draw throws them up against as they march forward full of confidence that they can match any of their opponents.  

Armagh: Blaine Hughes, Mark Shields (0-1), Aaron McKay, Paddy Burns, Aidan Forker (0-1), Brendan Donaghy (0-1),  Paul Hughes (0-1), Jarly Og Burns (0-2), Niall Grimley (0-1), Aidan Nugent (0-1), Stefan Campbell (0-1), Jemar Hall (0-2), Jamie Clarke (0-3), Rian O’Neill (2-1), Andrew Murnin (0-1). Subs: Rory Grugan for A. Murnin, Charlie Vernon (0-1) for N. Grimley, Jason Duffy for A. Nugent, Joe McElroy for P. Burns.

Monaghan: Rory Beggan (0-2), Kieran Duffy, Conor Boyle, Ryan Wylie, Karl O’Connell, Vinny Corey, Dessie Ward (0-1), Niall Kearns, Kieran Hughes (0-1), Fintan Kelly, Jack McCarron (1-1), Michael Bannigan (0-1), Ryan McAnespie, Conor McCarthy (0-1), Conor McManus (0-5). Subs: Drew Wylie for K. Duffy, Stephen O’Hanlon for M Bannigan, Shane Carey for R. McAnespie, Barry McGinn for N. Kearns.