Armagh 2-17 Wicklow 2-7
Armagh progressed through to the second round of the All-Ireland Qualifiers with a ten point win over Wicklow at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday afternoon.
The margin of victory doesn’t paint the whole picture as Armagh were made work for the win as two late Jamie Clark goals added gloss to the scoreline.
Andrew Murnin opened the scoring for the home side before Jamie Clarke doubled the lead following a great counterattack which stemmed from a Charlie Vernon block at the other end of the field.
Clarke added his second and Armagh’s third a minute later but Tony Kernan had a glorious opportunity to put six between the sides – his effort on goal well saved by Robert Lambert in the Wicklow goal.
Armagh were coasting and extended their lead through Caolan Rafferty who latched onto a ball threaded through by Murnin.
The visitors finally managed to register halfway through the half when Darren Hayden knocked over to reduce the gap back down to three.
Three minutes later Miceal McKenna added his first of the game for the home side before Wicklow began to rally.
A John McGrath goal reduced the arrears to a single point and soon the sides were level when a Paul Cronin free sailed between the upright 10 minutes before the break.
However, Ethan Rafferty, Stefan Campbell and Clarke again steadied the Armagh ship with three fine scores, before the Crossmaglen sharpshooter added another to have the final say of the half. At the break in stood Armagh 0-9 Wicklow 1-2.
Wicklow began the second-half stronger with Ciaran Hyland converting.
Ethan Rafferty responded for Armagh with a free on the right hand side before Cronin and Paul McGraynor added two more for Johnny Magee’s men.
Campbell and McKenna notched up two much-needed scores for the hosts but Wicklow weren’t going to lie down in the Athletic Grounds as Cronin added two more points to his personally tally, reducing the deficit again to just two points.
With the game reaching the final stretch Aidan Forker tagged over another score before McKenna added his third to give Kieran McGeeney’s men a comfortable four-point lead.
However, that comfort soon evaporated three minutes later when James Stafford slotted past Michael McNeice for Wicklow’s second goal of the game, leaving the sides separated by just a single point.
The next score was crucial and it was the impressive Ethan Rafferty with a superb kick from a 45′ to put two in it. He added another with six minutes remaining.
The game was finally put to bed with a minute of normal time on the clock as Jamie Clarke broke through to fire home Armagh’s first goal of the game. And with that Wicklow capitulated – opening up the floodgates.
Caolan Rafferty added another point before man-of-the-match Clarke did it again with his, and Armagh’s, second goal of the game.
Armagh progress as they await to find out their second-round opponents.