Monaghan 1-12 Armagh 1-14
Armagh picked up maximum points in Castleblayney on Saturday, winning with two to spare in the end, to open their account in the best way.
Kieran McGeeney’s side had 16 shots in the opening 35 minutes but finished the half with just 1-4 to their name, while Monaghan lost Jack McCarron to an injury early on.
Aidan Nugent opened the scoring, before Michael Bannigan equalised. Dessie Ward, Rory Beggan and Michael Bannigan all scored to put Monaghan 4-1 ahead.
Ethan Rafferty, assisted by Aidan Forker, finally ended Armagh’s dry spell. Stephen O’Hanlon saw his score matched by Rian O’Neill.
Armagh earned a stroke of fortune when Tiernan Kelly latched onto a mishit Rory Beggan kickout. The Clann Eireann man netted to put the Orchard ahead.
Sean Jones levelled while Rory Grugan and Conor McCarthy exchanged scores to make it 1-4 to 0-7 at half time.
Armagh burst out of the traps in the second half and dominated possession of the ball, and the Monaghan kickout. Beggan lost all six of his restarts in the third quarter and Armagh made them pay.
O’Neill (2), Andrew Murnin (2), Nugent and Stephen Sheridan all pointed to make six the difference.
But the game was far from over and Monaghan were determined to battle back and soon dwindled the margin to just two.
Conor McCarthy laced over a close range free before a Farney forward latched onto the Armagh kickout.
The ball was worked into the square and the Monaghan man was upended, leaving Sean Hurson with no choice but to award a penalty.
McCarthy cool dispatched to the corner, sending Rafferty the wrong way, while O’Hanlon grabbed his second to make it a one-point game.
O’Neill (free) and Bannigan traded scores before two Stefan Campbell points gave Armagh some much needed breathing space.
Shane Carey narrowed the gap, while Bannigan cancelled out a fisted Ross McQuillan score.
That was as close as the hosts could get, and Armagh left St Mary’s Castleblayney happy, with two points in the bag.