Category: Archive

Armagh and Kerry capture football titles

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Patrick Bolger/INPHO

Ger Reid of Armagh wins an ‘rial duel Sunday during his team’s victory in the Ulster football final victory over Derry.

Tom Honan/INPHO

Kerry’s Seamus Moynihan basks in the crowd’s adulation after his team beat Clare for the Munster football crown.

By Mark Jones

Armagh 1-12, Derry 1-11

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Armagh became only the third county in 25 years to retain the Ulster football title when they edged out Derry in a dramatic final at Clones last Sunday. Anthony Tohill had a chance to earn a replay with a 50-meter free in the dying seconds, but the Derry captain’s kick sailed to the right of the posts.

Though Tohill and his teammates were inconsolable, the better team won. Even without the injured Diarmuid Marsden, the Armagh forwards were quick and inventive, while their defense brilliantly held the Derry front line in check. Derry’s suspended manager, Eamonn Coleman, recognized the winners’ superiority, and saved his wrath for the GAA authorities during his resignation speech.

"I’m not bitter at being beaten, I’m bitter at how you get treated in GAA circles by people who never played the game but sit up and lay down the law," Coleman said. "They never played the game and know nothing about it as far as I’m concerned. I’m finished, that’s my last fling. Nothing will change my mind, I’ve given it my best shot."

Coleman had to watch the game from the main stand after being suspended for remarks he made about referee John Bannon.

After leading Derry to two National Leagues, one Ulster title, Coleman’s dream of a second All-Ireland success looked less likely to come to fruition as the match went on. After a promising start, Enda Muldoon was shackled by the underrated Ger Reid as the McNulty brothers, Enda and Justin, broke up most of the Derry attacks.

At midfield, Tohill appeared to be struggling to shake off the effects a hip injury and his usually productive partnership with Dermot Heaney failed to gel. Armagh loaded the center of the pitch with bodies and John and Tony McEntee, along with Paul McGrane and Kieran McGeeney, dominated possession.

Steven McDonnell pounced for an early goal following a powerful run by McGeeney and Armagh were clear by 1-6 to 0-7 at the break. Coleman’s dissatisfaction with his attack was clear when Joe Brolly and Ronan Rocks were brought in for the second half in place of Paddy Bradley and Eamonn Burns, but it was Armagh who continued to press on.

Still, despite their control over the contest, it was still desperately tight going into the final 10 minutes. A four-point advantage was quickly whittled away by a Tohill point and then by a marvelous Johnny McBride goal that was set up by a Brolly and Rocks interchange. But Armagh were not to be denied and Oisin McConville thumped over a long-range free with three minutes left.

"We didn’t panic when they got the goal," said Brian Canavan, Armagh joint-manager with Brian McAlinden. "A lot of people thought this team couldn’t win back-to-back Ulster titles, but it was a superb all-around team performance. I think over the 70 minutes, we were the better side."

Kerry 3-15, Clare 0-8

There had been talk before this Munster football final of Clare’s historic success back in 1992. Could they topple Kerry again? Could the summer of shocks continue? The answer on both counts in Limerick last Sunday was an emphatic no as Kerry cruised to a 67th provincial title.

For a few moments early on, Clare might have believed they were in with some hope, but once Kerry settled into a rhythm, the gulf between the two sides widened by the minute. Clare needed Martin Daly to work some of his magic in attack, but the Lissycasey man was a massive disappointment before being replaced a quarter of an hour before the end.

In fairness, Daly had no support as the rest of the Clare forwards either overplayed the ball or kicked it away. Equally, Kerry’s full-back, Seamus Moynihan, was in top form and around him Killian Burns, Michael McCarthy and Tom O’Sullivan all made important contributions.

But once Liam Hassett set the ball rolling with a goal in the 26th minute, it was the Kerry front players who dictated both the pace and the outcome of a one-sided encounter. Dara O Cinneide, Aodhan MacGearailt and Johnny Crowley shared 2-10 between them and, at midfield, Darragh O Se produced his best performance since the 1997 All-Ireland final.

"We focused on this match and closed our ears to what was being said in Kerry," manager Paidi O Se said. "We trained harder than for the Cork game and the goal before halftime gave us a great break. The scoreline didn’t do Clare any favors; they’re a better team than that."

It was 1-7 to 0-4 at the break and even though the Clare defense didn’t wilt until near the end, they went scoreless for 23 minutes as MacGearailt and Crowley added goals for a by now rampant Kerry.

"We didn’t play like I know we can," said defeated manager Tommy Curtin. "In a county like Clare, you don’t have that many top-class players, but they must play up to their best to win a title and that didn’t happen. Still, I haven’t lost hope because of this result."

As for Kerry, they certainly will have to show an improvement despite the imbalance if they’re to repeat the All-Ireland success of three years ago. Clare were supposed to offer a meaningful test and they failed.

"The All-Ireland is the last thing on our minds at the moment," O Se said with a glint in his eye.

Believe that and you’ll believe anything.

Kildare 0-17, Offaly 2-8

Will the real Kildare please stand up? The hesitant team that conceded two early goals to Offaly in this Leinster football semifinal replay at Croke Park, or the scintillating points scoring machine that cut loose during the second half. Maybe we’ll only know the truth after the final against Dublin.

But whatever about Kildare’s edgy start, the good far outweighed the bad. Suddenly, the movement, passing and shooting all clicked into place and just before the break until 20 minutes into the second half, the Lilywhites fired over 12 unanswered points during a truly inspired burst.

These were the players who couldn’t score, the team with a decent defense and no attack. True, there were 10 wides for manager Mick O’Dywer to ponder, but some of the attacking play when Kildare got a head of steam up was positively breathtaking.

"All the scribes have been saying that the players are supposed to be whingers and toothless and all these kind of things," O’Dwyer said. "But I think they proved out there that they are great players. It’s unfair for any critic to go on about that stuff — they’ve been training for the last four years and scarified all their free time to achieve this level of fitness."

Much of the criticism had been generated following the drawn game when Kildare demonstrated the art of abominable shooting, and there didn’t seem to be too much hope when Offaly plundered two goals within minutes of the start. First, Colm Quinn surged past Brian Lacey to fire his shot past Christy Byrne and then Ciaran McManus latched on to Vinny Claffey’s palmed pass to beat Byrne once again.

So with just 20 minutes gone, it was 2-2 to 0-3, and never mind Kildare’s problematic attack, serious questions were being asked over the defense. But the white jerseys began to settle and when John Doyle, Padraig Brennan and Martin Lynch tapped over points in quick succession, the gap was down to three.

Little did Kildare know at the interval that those three scores would loosen an avalanche, but for much of the second half, it was one-way traffic as Kildare swamped the Offaly rearguard with one of the finest sustained bursts of attacking seen at Croke Park for many years.

Brennan, with 0-8, Eddie McCormack, who contributed four points from play, and Lynch, who had been moved to full forward, ran amok, while the excellent Willie McCreery directed operations from midfield. With a quarter of an hour left, Kildare has amassed a six-point lead and a bemused Offaly were left to reflect on what might have been.

"I think someone laughed at me when I said Kildare were one of the top four teams in the country," said Offaly manager Padraig Nolan. "But you could certainly see it out there. We missed chances, but overall Kildare were the better team."

Other Games

Derry won the Ulster minor football title, beating Tyrone 2-11 to 1-11 in a hard-fought final, while Cork fought back to defeat Kerry by 1-13 to 0-14 in the Munster decider. Meanwhile, Offaly’s under 21s showed the senior team the way when they surprised Kilkenny to take the Leinster under 21 hurling title by 3-14 to 2-14 at Portlaoise.

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