Armagh expose chinks in Cork defence
TG4 All-Ireland SFC Group 1 (R3)
Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald admitted his side will need to address their defensive frailties if they want to advance further in this year’s All-Ireland Ladies senior football championship.
Following the three goals conceded to Cavan in last week’s facile Group One triumph at Mullingar, the Rebels leaked 4-9 to Armagh at O’Connor Park, Tullamore on Saturday.
This ultimately proved costly on the day for the Munster champions, who saw their 10-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Orchard County.
“Every time you concede a goal is a worry, but that’s something we need to address and need to look at during the week. Defending is a collective thing,” Fitzgerald admitted.
“Armagh created a lot of goal-scoring chances but we turned over a fair bit of ball ourselves, which didn’t help. Sometimes you have days where you can’t explain performances and hopefully today was one of those.
“That’s not taking away from Armagh’s performance. They were well set-up defensively, broke at pace and caused us trouble. We know we have no divine right to win any game.”
Cork appeared to be on the right track when Rhona Ni Bhuachalla goaled on 12 minutes. Returning captain Doireann O’Sullivan also chipped in with three points to give the Leesiders a 1-5 to 0-4 interval advantage.
However, Armagh produced an extraordinary goal blitz on the restart to leave their much-fancied opponents in a state of shock. Caroline O’Hanlon, Blaithin Mackin, Kelly Mallon and Mairead Watters all found the net to elevate the Ulster finalists into a 10-point lead (4-9 to 1-8).
Cork refused to throw in the towel, though, and bagged 2-3 without reply to leave the bare minimum between the sides. Maire O’Callaghan and Libby Coppinger netted but Armagh held out to set-up a last-eight meeting with Group Four winners Mayo.
Despite falling short in a blistering finale, a superior scoring average helped Cork to top the group. As a result, they will now face Tyrone – the 2018 All-Ireland intermediate champions – at the quarter-final stage.
While Saturday’s defeat was undoubtedly a setback, Fitzgerald took encouragement from the way they finished the contest.
“At the end of the day, we’re still in the competition. We have lots of things to work on, obviously, but we can look forward and give it a shot against Tyrone. If we can take a plus, it was the way we finished. The amount of character the girls showed there towards the finish, we probably could have snatched a draw.”
Scorers for Armagh: C O’Hanlon 1-3 (0-1f), B Mackin 1-2, K Mallon, M Watters 1-0 each, A Mackin 0-3 (1f), T Grimes 0-1.
Scorers for Cork: D O’Sullivan 0-5, M O’Callaghan, R Ni Bhuachalla, L Coppinger 1-0 each, O Finn 0-3 (1f), C O’Sullivan 0-2, E Scally 0-1.
CORK: M O’Brien; E Meaney, E Spillane, S Kelly; M Duggan, A Hutchings, D Kiely; M O’Callaghan, A O’Sullivan; D Kiely, C O’Sullivan, C Collins; O Finn, D O’Sullivan, R Ni Bhuachalla.
Subs: E Scally for Hutchings, L Coppinger for Collins (both h-t), S Noonan for Ni Bhuachalla (46).
ARMAGH: A Carr; S Marley, C McCambridge, M Moriarty; M Sheridan, C Morgan, C McKenna; T Grimes, C O’Hanlon; N Marley, K Mallon, C Marley; A Mackin, B Mackin, A McCoy.
Subs: M Watters for A Mackin (h-t), A Donaldson for C Marley (47).
Referee: M Farrelly (Cavan).