Nicky Rackard Cup final: Rossies edge out Armagh

11 August 2007

Roscommon captain Mervyn Connaughton raises the Nicky Rackard Cup
Roscommon became the first Connacht side to lift the Nicky Rackard Cup following a 1-12 to 0-13 victory over an unlucky Armagh side at Croke Park.

Roscommon 1-12
Armagh 0-13

Credit must go to both sides as they produced an entertaining contest and although the standard may not have been the highest quality, the excitement and tension throughout was excellent.

There was a lively start to this match as Armagh went into a 0-3 to 0-2 with Chris McAlinden scoring two points for the Orchard County in the opening few minutes of the match. As expected the rain failed to stay away in this opener and it was no surprise to see that very few were seated for the throw-in.

Armagh were having the better of the exchanges in the opening few minutes and along with their three point tally, they managed to hit three wides also as Roscommon took time to settle.

The Ulster side went two points in front with a fine score from midfielder Ciaran Christie following a fine run and strike from distance. Armagh were using the open space to perfection as they had the Roscommon defence under serious pressure.

Declan Coulter, who scored 3-8 in the semi final opened his account with a fine point on the run that could have ended up in the back of the net and although it was early in the match, it looked as if the Ulster side could win this one handy.

However, Shane Sweeney gathered a sideline ball by midfielder Thomas Lennon and he fired over his second point to keep the Rossies within shouting distance of their opponents with 26 minutes gone.

With Paul McCormack outstanding at centre half back for Armagh, their defence were mopping up everything that was going in that direction, but the Connacht sides still managed to hit six wides during this period.

Following a good save by Armagh goalkeeper Joe B Burke, the sliothar was cleared but Lennon hit fine point over the bar from wide on the wing and this was followed by another score by Coulter to keep two between the sides.

Sweeney made amends for an earlier miss by tapping over a close range free as Roscommon came more in the match as the half wore on. Ironically, the first ’65 of the match came just before half time but the effort was sent wide of the upright.

The match was level again when Sweeney found his range once more to shoot over from a free and that was to be the last action of the half in what to be fair was a scrappy affair, although the greasy conditions did not help either side.

A point by Ryan Gaffney opened the scoring for Armagh in the second half after McAlinden caught a fine ball, although Colin Kelly who had moved to centre forward tapped over after he found space about 40 metres out from goal.

It seemed as if the tempo of the match had increased as high fielding was a highlight of the game and Bradley scored a point on the run to put Armagh back in front by the minimum of margins. Back came Roscommon as captain Mervyn Connaughton, who was having a usually quiet game up until this, scored a fine point of his left.

A long ball by John Moran was dealt with badly by the Armagh ’keeper and substitute Gary Fallon was on hand to flick the sliothar to the net to make it 1-8 to 0-8 ten minutes into the second half.

McAlinden and Coulter were certainly the main threat for Roscommon up front and the former scored an excellent point to lift his side and this was followed by a converted free by Coulter as Armagh were certainly still in this match, despite the concession of a scrappy goal.

At the other end, the towering Kelly was causing hassle for McCormack and he scored a good point under pressure, which was followed by a minor score by Sweeney to leave three points between the sides again. It was a fascinating duel between the Armagh centre back and the Roscommon centre forward as neither player wanted to be on the losing side in this third tier final.

Coulter took over free taking duties from Gaffney, but his second effort did not match his first as the sliothar came back off the post and was cleared by the Rossies’ defence to relieve the pressure.

Armagh introduced Cathal Carville and the substitute made an almost immediate impact when he found himself in loads of space and slotted over to reduce the gap to two, but Roscommon always seem to hit back and Lennon scored a long free to restore parity.

McCormack was finding loads of space in the half back line and his long balls in were creating chances, one of which was converted by Coulter. Roscommon’s ploy to crowd out the midfield was just about working and Kelly was moved back in full forward where Eugene Comiskey proved to be a tight marker.

Armagh supporters had their hearts in their mouths when Burke fumbled a ball on the line, but the goalkeeper regained his composure and cleared. A further converted free by Coulter, but that was the last action of the match as Roscommon were worthy winners.

Roscommon - D Connell, N Cunniffe, C Moran, M Keaveney, A Cunniffe, M Kelly, L Murray, M Connaughton (0-1), T Lennon (0-2, 1 free), J Moran, Gerry Fallon (0-1), T Reddington, Cathal Kelly, Colm Kelly (0-2), S Sweeney (0-6, 4 frees). Subs - G Fallon (1-0) for T Reddington ht, B Kelly for C Kelly 42, L Casey for J Moran 65.

Armagh - J Burke; T McCann, E McDonnell, P Kirk; P McArdle, P McCormack, B McCormack, B McCann (0-1); C Christie; R Gaffney (0-2), C McCann, G Enright, D Coulter (0-5, 2 frees), C McALinden (0-3), F Bradley (0-1). Subs - C Carville (0-1) for C McCann 42, K McGreevey for G Enright 51.

Referee - J Kelly (Wexford)