Armagh's Aaron McKay is challenged by Joel Wilson and Ryan Wylie of Monaghan. Tom Maher/INPHO
Round 1

Rian O'Neill grabs 0-4 as Armagh edge out Monaghan in league opener

The Orchard County picked up a two-point win to get their Division 1 campaign off the mark.

Armagh 1-14

Monaghan 1-12

Declan Bogue reports from Castleblayney

WHILE THERE WAS something of a wobble after they put in a huge ‘Championship Quarter’, it’s clear that Armagh see the new compressed season as something to go after, given their Championship opens on 9 April. Winning on the road at nearby Castleblayney was a start with more to do.

For now, they will look at their third quarter spell that brought them from level at the break, to yielding six unanswered points as a spell when it was high-functioning.

It could have broken Monaghan but Conor McCarthy then had an eventful couple of minutes, getting their first point of the half, then being fouled for a penalty by Ethan Rafferty that he converted to leave two points in it for the last quarter.

In the early stages, hosts Monaghan looked vulnerable. Already down Conor McManus and Darren Hughes, with Ryan McAnespie away travelling for the season, they lost Jack McCarron to a hamstring injury in the very first attack.

And yet, as he does so often, goalkeeper Rory Beggan became the dominant figure of the first half, clipping over a free and trying to thread balls through. He wasn’t to be outdone by his Armagh counterpart Ethan Rafferty who made a 60 yard dash to receive a pass, pick a brilliant line and get his shot and point.

And then Beggan gifted Armagh a goal. A poor kickout went straight to Tiernan Kelly and while Kelly thumped the ball goalwards, Beggan looked to have it covered and had his body between the goal and ball, before he slipped and it squirted across the line.

From then on, each team had their spells but after Monaghan brought the margin to the minimum, two late Stefan Campbell points gave Armagh the cushion they needed to see the game out.

New Monaghan manager Vinny Corey will be wondering when his beginner’s luck kicks in with the next assignment an away trip to Killarney to take on All-Ireland champions Kerry. Tough gig.

Scorers for Monaghan: C McCarthy (1-2, 1-0xpen, 0-1f), M Bannigan (0-4, 1f), S O’Hanlon (0-2), R Beggan (0-1f), D Ward, S Carey, S Jones (0-1 each)

Scorers for Armagh: R O’Neill (0-4, 1f, 1m), T Kelly (1-0), S Campbell, A Nugent (0-2 each), A Murnin (0-2, 1m), R McQuillan, E Rafferty (0-1 each), S Sheridan (0-1m), R Grugan (0-1f)

Monaghan: R Beggan; T McPhilips, K Duffy, R Wylie; C Boyle, D Ward, K Loughran; K Lavelle, C Lennon; S O’Hanlon, M Bannigan, J Wilson; C McCarthy, J McCarron, S Carey

Subs: S Jones for McCarron (4 mins), K O’Connell for Lennon (HT), S Slevin for Loughran (72 mins)

Armagh: E Rafferty; A McKay, A Forker, R Finn; C O’Neill, B McCambridge; J Óg Burns; S Sheridan, S Campbell; J Hall, R Grugan, T Kelly; R O’Neill, A Murnin, A Nugent

Subs: J Duffy for Hall (HT), N Grimley for Sheridan (59mins), R McQuillan for Murnin (65m)

Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)

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