Armagh 1-18 Clare 1-13
It’s been a long time since Armagh dined at the top table of Gaelic Football, but they have finally reclaimed their spot amongst the big eight.
2012 was the last time The Orchard County competed in Division One and their five-point win over Clare secured their place once again.
It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure, but it was well worth the wait. Kieran McGeeney has now reached the target of competing against the top teams for 2021.
Like last weekend, Armagh were much the better team in the opening period, but the scoreline failed to reflect their dominance.
They had one point to spare at the interval, after leading by seven midway through the half, but they let Clare claw their way back into contention.
Rory Grugan was on fire early on, setting up his sides only goal of the game as well as chipping in with two points.
The O’Neill’s continue to demonstrate their class while Conor O’Neill and Aidan Forker were others who showed well.
Grugan’s quick thinking played through Callum Cumiskey, who rounded the keeper and buried the ball into the net for the games opening score.
Stephen Sheridan, who was a late addition to the starting line-up and went toe to toe with Gary Brennan, hit the first point of the game.
Clare replied through Eoin Clearly, scorer of eight points on the day, and he recorded two points either side of a Rian O’Neill score.
A superb Niall Grimley catch set about another Armagh attack, with a brilliant diagonal ball into the forward line.
O’Neill rose highest to get a hand to it and nudge possession in the direct of Grugan who slotted over his first point.
Conor O’Neill, Grugan and Jason Duffy all raised white flags before Clare took over and began to dominate.
The hope side recorded the final five points of the first half to bring them back into the game, Armagh ahead 1-7 to 0-9 at the interval.
McGeeney’s men came out of the traps quickly at the start of the second period, with Oisin and Rian O’Neill (2), along with substitute Stefan Campbell all registering scores.
Clare would not fade however, and their only goal of the game insured a nervy final twenty minutes for the Orchard County.
Brennan sent a long, high ball into the edge of the square and it spilled to the waiting Cian O’Dea who slotted home a goal.
The sides were level for the first time ten minutes later, when Keelan Sexton knocked over a debatable free.
Armagh powered home in the final few minutes, with Oisin O’Neill leading the charge, knocking over two huge scores.
Grugan popped over a free, as did Rian O’Neill, while Jarly Og Burns also hit a great score to secure the victory.
Armagh meet Derry next weekend in the opening round of the championship, but they can enjoy their achievement for now.
The lads, along with their management team, deserve huge credit for getting the Orchard County back to the top tier.
Armagh Scorers: Rian O’Neill 0-6, Callum Cumiskey 1-0, Rory Grugan 0-3, Oisin O. O’Neill 0-3, Stefan Campbell 0-1, Jamie Clarke 0-1, Conor O’Neill 0-1, Jarly Og Burns 0-1, Jason Duffy 0-1, Stephen Sheridan 0-1.
Clare Scorers: Eoin Cleary 0-8, Cian O’Dea 1-0. Keelan Sexton 0-3, Jamie Malone 0-1, Gary Brennan 0-1.