27 JUL 2021
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RED HOT ARMAGH SIZZLE IN CLONES SUN

21 July 2021

Armagh marched into the All-Ireland Senior Championship quarter-finals as their sizzling display proved too hot to handle for Cavan on a scorching Saturday afternoon in Clones.

All Ireland Player of the Year Aimee Mackin led the way with 10 points while inspirational skipper Kelly Mallon and the incomparable Caroline O’Hanlon each weighed in with tallies of 1-2 for Ronan Murphy’s side.

The fit-again Mallon, who had top-scored off the bench against Monaghan a week earlier, not only provided imposing physical presence up front for Armagh but also showed some delightfully deft touches to create chances for others.

Aoife McCoy could have had a hat-trick but struck the Cavan crossbar and squeezed another attempt just past the post either side of the cracking goal she scored in what was an absorbing battle between these provincial rivals up until the last quarter.

Both teams had started with wides before Cavan’s Aisling Gilsenan fisted over the game’s opening point in the third minute, quickly cancelled out by a nice left-footed score from O’Hanlon.

Aimee Mackin was well wide with an awful free but Harps skipper Fionnuala McKenna, playing her 98th Armagh match, put the Orchard ahead for the first time only for Aishling Sheridan to reply with a long-range effort.

Points from Aimee Mackin and McKenna sandwiched a Cavan wide but a well-worked score from Catherine Dolan narrowed the gap to one.

A lovely point from O’Hanlon doubled the lead before a sublime ball by Blaithin Mackin for her big sister seemed certain to deliver a goal, but Aimee was content to take the point.

Mallon launched a huge shot just wide and, although a long-range free from Aimee Mackin meant the orangewomen were four up at the water-break, their lead was halved thanks to a point and free from Gilsenan either side of a Grimes wide.

Geraldine Sheridan was sinbinned for rugby-tackling the fearless Ferguson and, although Armagh couldn’t capitalise initially, O’Hanlon’s goal gave Armagh some breathing space. Aimee Mackin was wide with a longish free and, after half back Sinead Greene got forward for a characteristic score, Armagh had a let-off when Cavan hit the woodwork.

The Orchard crew were going through a jittery period and the breakdown between Grimes and Sarah Marley let Cavan cut Armagh’s lead to just a single point thanks to the resulting Aishling Sheridan goal.

A run and point from Aimee Mackin made it 1-8 to 1-6 at the interval but Cavan were level within five minutes of the resumption thanks to a free from Lauren McVeety and a good point by Geraldine Sheridan.

A McKenna free was well short never mind off-target but Aimee Mackin converted the next one soon afterwards and, after a towering wide by Catherine Marley, the orangewomen were unlucky not to get a goal. Blaithin Mackin broke from deep and played a long ball which was won brilliantly by Mallon, but she was hauled down and the whistle was deemed to have just gone before she lashed the ball to the Cavan net.

After consulting his umpires, Down referee Brendan Rice gave Armagh a free in, which Aimee Mackin kicked, but no card was awarded and the Ulster champions needed a good block by McConville in defence to avert danger at the other end.

From the subsequent Armagh attack, McKenna played McCoy through and the diminutive Dromintee woman delivered a wonderful finish to the net though the Breffni brigade responded with Aishling Sheridan kicking a point under pressure from McCambridge.

Armagh responded promptly, Mallon winning the ball again and sending Aimee Mackin clear to cut inside from the left for a left-footed point, but disaster soon struck when Carr’s spill handed Cavan a lifetime.

The Armagh keeper was injured trying to retrieve the situation but thankfully was able to continue after treatment and her long kickout created the platform for a point from McKenna after good approach play by Catherine Marley, Aimee Mackin and O’Hanlon to put the Ulster champions a goal ahead at the water-break.

Mallon nailed a free won by Coleman and both those players were involved in the lead-up to another point from Aimee Mackin two minutes later before a great run by O’Hanlon yielded a free with Mallon raising a white flag to increase the Orchard cushion to six points with 10 minutes remaining.

A switch of play by Mallon set up Aimee Mackin for Armagh’s next point before captain Mallon made the game safe in the 56th minute when she buried the ball to the net. Crossmaglen’s Clarke followed with another Armagh point before giving way to Niamh Reel.

Another lovely ball by O’Hanlon to Mallon led to Aimee Mackin taking her personal tally into double figures and put Armagh 12 ahead, but Cavan got two late consolation scores with sub Amy Rooney converting a free and then a penalty just before the hooter.

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