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Dublin's four-in-a-row bid roars on as Rowe's 2-4 steers them into another All-Ireland final

Mick Bohan’s side drove on in the second half of a stern Armagh test to book their seventh decider date on the bounce.

Dublin star Carla Rowe fired 2-4.
Dublin star Carla Rowe fired 2-4.
Image: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

Dublin 3-13

Armagh 3-8

THE FOUR-IN-A-ROW BID roars on, with a Christmas cracker in Croke Park to look forward to.

On a crisp night in Cavan under the lights, Dublin shone brightest as they booked their seventh consecutive All-Ireland final appearance with a five-point win — though they were pushed all the way in this ferocious battle with a rising Armagh side. 

Carla Rowe led the Sky Blues’ scoring charge with 2-4 and Lyndsey Davey put in a Player of the Match winning performance in her 17th campaign, as Mick Bohan’s outfit’s big-game experience was vital — but credit must go to brave challengers Armagh, inspired once again by Aimee Mackin, though hampered by a second-half sin-bin.

Their wait for a first decider appearance since 2006 goes on, while Dublin prepare to face either Cork or Galway — who do battle next weekend — on Sunday, 20 December.

After their historic win over Mayo, Armagh named an unchanged team for their first All-Ireland semi-final appearance since 2015, the Dubs their opposition on that occasion too. Ronan Murphy’s side came into this one firing on all cylinders, having scored 10-28 in their two group games; star forward Mackin clocking 3-13 across two Player of the Match-winning displays.

Dublin welcomed the return of experienced All-Star duo Sinéad Goldrick and Siobhan McGrath to the starting line-up, both having missed their last outing against Waterford. Nicole Owens, making her first championship start after a cruciate injury last summer, was a late addition to the line-up in place of clubmate Niamh McEvoy.

That late switch paid immediate dividends; Owens palming the ball home with two minutes on the clock after an excellent team move involving Lyndsey Davey and Noelle Healy. Sinéad Aherne tagged on a free just after, before Mackin opened Armagh’s account with eight minutes on the clock following a shaky start that threw up three wides.

jennifer-dunne-noelle-healy-and-siobhan-killeen-celebrate-after-the-final-whistle Dublin's Jennifer Dunne, Noelle Healy and Siobhan Killeen celebrate at the final whistle. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

The ever-threatening Rowe came alive just after, her quick-fire 1-1 making it 2-2 to 0-1 by the 10-minute mark. At this stage, Dublin were firmly in control but Armagh found their feet and settled nicely after scores from captain Kelly Mallon (free) and Mackin.

The scoreboard read 2-2 to 1-3 at the first water break; Mackin showing her soccer skills to expertly dispatch a penalty after being fouled fielding. Dublin weathered the storm on the restart and eventually broke down the solid Orchard defence to end a 13-minute scoreless spell; 2017 Footballer of the Year Noelle Healy popping up with back-to-back points.

A stunning effort from 2017 All-Ireland final super sub Sarah McCaffrey looked to have the Sky Blues in the driving seat once again, but Armagh turned on the style with 1-3 from four different players: Aoife McCoy with the 26th-minute goal, along with points from Catherine Marley, Blaithin Mackin and Mallon (free). While Armagh’s pressure on Ciara Trant’s kick-out worked wonders, 2015 Footballer of the Year Caroline O’Hanlon made her presence felt all over.

But just as the half-time hooter sounded, Healy made it a draw game at 2-6 a-piece — the Dubs dealt a significant blow minutes beforehand after the loss of captain Aherne to injury.

aimee-mackin-and-lauren-magee Armagh's Aimee Mackin and Lauren Magee of Dublin. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

On the restart, it was level-pegging once again with Davey and Mackin exchanging early offerings. It turned into a battle of two defences; Goldrick and Niamh Collins holding the fort for Dublin, while Clodagh McCambridge led her troops at the other end.

In the 39th minute, however, the Grance full-back was sin-binned and Rowe stepped up to cooly slot home a penalty. She followed that up with a free-kick, while Davey added another before Mackin brought it back to a four-point game.

Both sides will rue missed chances but Dublin enjoyed the numerical advantage; substitute Siobhan Killeen in flying form after a long-term injury making it 3-10 to 2-8 by the second water break.

Rowe picked up where she left off with an excellent point on the resumption before Davey rattled the woodwork, and Dublin’s dominance shone through. But Aimee Mackin did what Aimee Mackin does best with 10 minutes to go; her simply outstanding goal after dancing around helpless Dublin defenders reducing the deficit to three.

Rowe tagged on another free as fresh legs were introduced, Dublin happy with their lead despite some uncharacteristic misses, and Armagh chasing the game.

But the champions had the big-game experience to see this one out, a late Kate Sullivan point putting the icing on the cake as the four-in-a-row bid continues deep into the winter months.

Scorers for Dublin: Carla Rowe (2-4, 2f, 1p), Nicole Owens (1-0) Noelle Healy (0-3), Lyndsey Davey (0-2), Sinéad Aherne (1f), Sarah McCaffrey, Siobhan Killeen and Kate Sullivan (all 0-1).

Scorers for Armagh: Aimee Mackin (2-4, 2f, 1p), Aoife McCoy (1-0), Kelly Mallon (0-2, 2f), Blaithin Mackin and Catherine Marley (both 0-1).

Dublin

1. Ciara Trant (St Brigid’s)

2. Martha Byrne (Cuala)
3. Niamh Collins (Foxrock-Cabinteely)
4. Leah Caffrey (Na Fianna)

5. Aoife Kane (Kilmacud Crokes)
6. Siobhan McGrath (Thomas Davis)
7. Sinéad Goldrick (Foxrock-Cabinteely)

8. Lauren Magee (Kilmacud Crokes)
9. Jennifer Dunne (Cuala)

10. Carla Rowe (Clann Mhuire)
11. Lyndsey Davey (Skerries Harps)
12. Sarah McCaffrey (Clontarf)

13. Sinéad Aherne (St Sylvester’s)
23. Nicole Owens (St Sylvester’s)
15. Noelle Healy (St Brigid’s)

Subs

20. Siobhan Killeen for Sinéad Aherne (26)
14. Niamh McEvoy for Sarah McCaffrey (HT)
21. Kate Sullivan for Jennifer Dunne (53)
22. Caoimhe O’Connor for Nicole Owens (53)
29. Orlagh Nolan for Aoife Kane (56)

Armagh

1. Anna Carr (Carrickcruppen)

2. Sarah Marley (Lissummon)
3. Clodagh McCambridge (Grance)
4. Shauna Grey (Dromintee)

5. Tiarna Grimes (Clann Eireann)
6. Blaithin Mackin (Shane O’Neills)
7. Grace Ferguson (Ballyhegan Davitts)

8. Niamh Coleman (Clann Eireann)
9. Aveen Bellew (Crossmaglen Rangers)

10. Catherine Marley (Lissummon)
11. Aoife McCoy (Dromintee)
12. Aimee Mackin (Shane O’Neills)

13. Caroline O’Hanlon (Carrickcruppen)
14. Kelly Mallon (Armagh Harps — captain)
15. Eve Lavery (Ballyhegan Davitts)

Subs

18. Tiarna McVeigh for Grace Ferguson (46)
22. Niamh Reel for Eve Lavery (55)

Referee: Garryowen McMahon (Mayo).

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About the author:

Emma Duffy  / Reports from Kingspan Breffni Park

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