It was a day to remember for Clann Eireann’s Conor Turbitt, with the youngster rattling the back of the net on two occasions to help Armagh overcome Cavan with relative ease. Although it may be early days, yesterday’s performance would have left a star beside Turbitt’s name in many Armagh fans programmes.
Conor O’Neill also gave a solid display on his first showing in the orange and white while Niall Grimley and Oisin O’Neill formed a great partnership at centre-field. At the back, Joe McElroy adjusted brilliantly to an unfamiliar position at corner back along with Aidan Forker who pressed up for a first half score while Blaine Hughes was superb from his restarts.
Jemar Hall worked hard throughout; as did Aidan Nugent who finished with four points from play, but it was Rian O’Neill who stood out with a sensational performance. Cavan really couldn’t handle the Crossmaglen man as he drifted out the field and when he wasn’t finishing the attacks, he was the one linking the play.
Indeed it was the younger O’Neill who opened the scoring with an early free after two minutes while Cavan hit back to level the game with Conor Smith hitting the target. O’Neill set up Nugent for his first of the game before grabbing his second with another point from the dead ball.
While Armagh were well on top during the opening proceedings, Cavan soon found themselves ahead as a rash challenge in the square meant the referee had no choice but to reward a penalty kick. Up stepped Martin Reilly who coolly dispatched the ball to the corner of the net, the score now 1-1 to 0-3 to the hosts.
Rian O’Neill’s third pointed free split two more efforts from Aidan Nugent and Armagh soon found themselves three ahead as Jason Duffy got in on the action. Conor Madden and Reilly were linking well up front for Cavan and both hit a point each before Conor Smith split the posts after earning an advanced mark.
Madden would grab his second with Reilly this time turned provided while centre half forward Bryan Magee opened his account to send Cavan into a 1-6 to 0-7 lead. Incredibly, Armagh found themselves trailing although they had been much the better side for the opening 20 minutes.
They began to really turn on the style, with Cavan struggling to deal with Armagh’s superior skill level and Stefan Campbell’s strong run allowed him to get his side back to within one. Jemar Hall captured the resulting kick out and set off Oisin O’Neill who swung over his first and suddenly the sides were back on level terms.
It wasn’t long before the Orchard County got in front and it was Turbitt who slid the ball low past the diving Raymond Galligan to not only get himself on the score sheet but also send Armagh three points ahead. The margin was soon seven with Aidan Forker, Aidan Nugent and Rian O’Neill (2) all scoring.
Cavan pulled one back through a Ryan Connolly free but it wasn’t enough to halt the Armagh charge as Jason Duffy struck his second and the final score of the half. Armagh were well ahead by this stage and it was only Reilly’s early penalty that offered Cavan some hope for the second 35 minutes, with Armagh ahead 1-14 to 1-7.
The second half didn’t live with the high expectations the first half offered as the game was over as a contest inside the opening two minutes. Like the first half, Rian O’Neill opened the score with a free before Turbitt once again raised a green flag with a powerful shot to the back of the Cavan goal.
Oisin O’Neill popped up for another score and surprisingly this would be Armagh’s last until the 36th minute, giving a more defensive display than was witnessed inside the first period. Cavan offered little going forward and it was substitute Niall Murray who was their only bright spark in the second half and he hit three in a row for his side.
Martin Reilly closed the gap to 8 after an advanced mark provided him with a free shot at goal, which he blasted over the crossbar. Turbitt ended a hugely impressive day with an equally impressive long range point before Cavan’s burly full-forward; Liam Buchanan, hit the final score of the game.
Armagh displayed two different displays in both halves, showing their willingness to pour forward and attack from all angles in the first half while defending well and keeping the opposition out throughout the second period. Kieran McGeeney will be happy with the promising signs shown on the first day of the season although he won’t get carried away.
The travelling side were full value for their 2-17 to 1-13 victory and the Armagh faithful will not look forward to welcoming old rivals Tyrone to the Athletic Grounds on January 8th and will hope for a ‘real test’ for this emerging side before they meet Cavan once again in the first round of the league.
Armagh Team: Blaine Hughes, Joe McElroy, Brendan Donaghy, Aidan Forker (0-1), Mark Shields, Greg McCabe, Conor O’Neill, Niall Grimley, Oisin O’Neill (0-2), Aidan Nugent (0-4), Stefan Campbell (0-1), Jemar Hall, Conor Turbitt (2-2), Rian O’Neill (0-6), Jason Duffy (0-1). Subs: Jarlath Og Burns for J. Duffy, James Morgan for J. Hall, Stephen Sheridan for O. O’Neill, Caolan McConville for M. Shields, Mark Toal for A. Forker.
Cavan Team: Raymond Galligan, Patrick Meade, Padraig Faulkner, Luke Fortune, Ciaran Brady, Benjamin Kelly, Oisin Kiernan, Evan Fortune, Kian Monahan, Martin Reilly (1-2), Bryan Magee (0-1), Stephen Smith, Ryan Connolly (0-1), Conor Madden (0-3), Conor Smith (0-2). Subs: Stephen Murray for B. Kelly, Chris Conroy for K. Monahan, Niall Murray (0-3) for S. Murray, Gearoid McKiernan for C. Brady, Liam Buchanan (0-1) for R. Connolly.