Clarke’s goal claims share of the spoils for Armagh

Westmeath 3-12 Armagh 2-15

Armagh and Westmeath couldn’t be separated after 70 plus minutes of action in Mullingar on Sunday, with the travelling side needing a last minute Jamie Clarke goal to salvage a draw. 

The Orchard County dominated the early exchanges and held a strong eight point lead at the interval. But failure to build on their early promise meant that Westmeath earned an 11 point turnaround, meaning it was Armagh who had to chase the game in the final moments. 

Armagh opened up an eight point gap between the teams 10 minutes after the first whistle sounded, with their lethal attack clicking early on. 

Rian O’Neill chipped over tow two frees before Rory Grugan raised the only green flag of the half, palming home a goal after just four minutes. 

The visitors continued their great start with Rian O’Neill grabbing a third from the place ball while Conor Turbitt and Aidan Fokrer also got in on the act. 

Westmeath final disrupted Armagh’s scoring flow with their 12th minute opening point, coming from the boot of John Heslin. 

Luke Loughlin slotted over a 45 following another score for Armagh, Jarly Og Burns this time fisting the ball between the posts. 

Rory Grugan (free) and Oisin O’Neill traded scores with Heslin and Loughlin before O’Neill claimed his second point, converting a mark. 

Ronan O’Toole cut the deficit to five before Armagh took over for the remaining minutes of the half, hitting the final three points. 

Rory Grugan tagged on two pointed frees while Mark Shields became his sides 7th scorer of the half with a 36th minute point. Armagh well ahead at the break 1-12 to 0-7.  

It didn’t take long for Armagh’s led to diminish and within six minutes, the Lake County had reduced the margin to a single point. 

John Heslin swung over a free at the beginning of the period before the big full forward was again called upon from a placed ball, this time lashing the ball past Blaine Hughes from the penalty spot. 

Things went from bad to worse when Westmeath captured the resulting kick out and possession made its way to Denis Corroon, who buried the ball into the net, reducing the gap to just one.  

Boidu Sayeh abandoned his defensive duties and raced forward to claim the equalising score, Armagh 1-12 Westmeath 2-9. 

Rory Grugan settled his sides nerves with a point to restore the lead but it wasn’t long until Armagh found themselves behind for the first time in the game. 

Luke Loughlin grabbed Westmeath’s third goal of the half to fire his side two points ahead while Heslin and O’Toole added to the home sides growing advantage. 

The men in orange and white responded with points from Rian O’Neill and Jason Duffy, but Heslin was on hand once more to extend Westmeath’s lead to three points. 

Armagh would have one final say however and it fell to substitute Jamie Clarke, who found the net with the final score of the game, and after a brief dicussion with his umpire’s, the referee let the goal stand, despite calls for a square ball. 

Westmeath had a chance to steal victory at the other end of the pitch but midfielder Ray Connellan couldn’t find the target with his mark. 

All in all, Armagh will be pleased to have taken something from the game, which seemed highly unlikely for long periods of the second half.  

The result means that both teams remain in the promotion hunt with 5 points each, only Cavan better placed in the table, on 6 points. 

Armagh are on the road once again next Sunday as they travel to Brewster Park to take on Ryan McMenamin’s Fermanagh in round five. 

With three games remaining, combined with the unpredictability of Division Two, next weeks game will be crucial to Armagh’s promotion plans and we enter the ‘must win’ stage of the competition.

Armagh: Blaine Hughes, Paddy Burns, Aidan Nugent, Aidan Forker (0-1), Conor O’Neill, Stephen Sheridan, Joe McElroy, Niall Grimley, Oisin O’Neill (0-2), Rory Grugan (1-4), Stefan Campbell, Mark Shields (0-1), Conor Turbitt (0-1), Rian O’Neill (0-4), Jarly Og Burns (0-1). Subs: Jason Duffy (0-1) for C. Turbitt, Jamie Clarke (1-0), for A. Nugent, James Morgan for J. McElroy, Ethan Rafferty for O. O’Neill

Westmeath: Jason Daly, Killian Daly, Ronan Wallace, Boidu Sayeh (0-1), Sam Duncan, Kevin Maguire, James Dolan, Denis Corroon (0-1), Ray Connellan (0-1), Anthony McGivney, Ronan O’Toole (0-2), David Lynch, Callum McCormack, John Heslin (1-6), Luke Loughlin (1-2). Subs: Conor Coughlin for D. Lynch, Tommy McDnaiel for C. McCormack, Noel Mulligan for A. McGivney, Jack Smith for S. Duncan