Armagh demolish listless Kildare as relegation prospect looms large

Third straight defeat for the Lilywhites as they are beaten by 14 points at Netwatch Cullen Park

National Football League Division Two, Armagh 2-16 Kildare 0-8

Kildare’s year continues to unravel after Glenn Ryan’s men saved their most insipid display of the National Football League so far for a game billed as a season-defining one – suffering a 14-point hammering to Armagh at Netwatch Cullen Park in Carlow.

The Lilywhites are bottom of the Division Two table, with zero points from three games – defeats to Cavan, Fermanagh and now Armagh. They had been well on their way to the third consecutive defeat by half-time in Carlow, as they trailed 2-8 to 0-4 at the turnaround.

By the hour mark, some Kildare fans among the 3,673 in attendance had started to head for the exits. Relegation to Division Three is a real possibility now, but perhaps even more alarming is the prospect of missing out on the All-Ireland SFC and spending a summer competing in the Tailteann Cup.

“Well, the worry at the moment is our form,” said Ryan afterwards. “That’s the most worrying thing, and if we can improve on our form, that situation will improve as well.


“So, it’s down the line. We need to worry about next Sunday, not a couple of months.”

If this was another sobering day for Kildare, it was another encouraging afternoon for Armagh – Kieran McGeeney’s men are now joint top of the Division Two table, with a 100 per cent record so far in the campaign.

The outcome of this game never looked in any doubt from the moment Conor Turbitt scored the game’s opening goal in the eighth minute, to give Armagh a 1-2 to no score advantage.

As Kildare tried to work the ball out from defence, a blind pass by Jack Sargent was intercepted by Rory Grugan, who immediately spotted the lack of cover in behind and fed possession to Greg McCabe.

He in turn offloaded to Turbitt, who finished from close range.

Grugan netted his side’s second goal after a long direct Armagh clearance exposed massive gaps in the Kildare rearguard. Kildare were annoyed a Darragh Kirwan effort was waved wide in the attack prior to Grugan’s goal.

The “home” side went 19 minutes between their third and fourth points, with Kevin Feely kicking over just before the half-time whistle to leave 10 points between the sides at the turnaround.

Kildare needed to start the second half strongly, if only to restore some confidence and pride, but the opening score on the restart went to Armagh, with Stefan Campbell pointing.

Ryan made two half-time subs, introducing Daniel Flynn and Luke Killian, while Armagh withdrew Rory Grugan and brought on Tiernan Kelly, but it was clear both sets of players realised the jeopardy had gone from the encounter, as Kildare’s bubble was long burst.

Kildare have now played 17 league games under Ryan, but won just five. In those 17 games they have managed to score goals in only three matches – the last of which was in March 2023. They have scored a total of five league goals in 17 matches, while at the other end Kildare have shipped 22.

Armagh and Donegal, who meet next weekend, are joint top of the table, with six points apiece.

“It’s good to get a victory,” said McGeeney afterwards. “We got the goals at the start and that gave us a platform to push on. It was one of those days when we got the rub of the green and got ahead.

“The ball was moving well and quick and they were two good finishes. In fairness, we have had chances like that before and not finished them. Getting that type of six-point cushion allows you to try a bit more and makes the other team push out so you get more space behind their defence.”

Kildare travel to Meath next weekend knowing that their league hopes are hanging by a thread. They looked rudderless and all out of ideas for so much of this game in Carlow.

There was a distinct lack of a scoring threat – they finished with 10 wides – and never created any genuine goal chances. To finish off a grey day for the Lilywhites, Kevin O’Callaghan was shown red in injury-time for a dangerous high tackle on Joe McElroy.

“We were disappointed with all aspects of the game,” admitted Ryan. “Very few positives to take out of it, we’ll try and take out of it and move on.

“The nature of league football is, every game is important, but probably from a different perspective now.

“We’ll look back at it and we’ll see what there is but sure it will be difficult to find positives out of it. We’ll look to see what we can improve on.

“We’ll keep working at it and keep trying to do what we can do and hopefully get the response that’s required.”

A trip to Navan awaits next Sunday. If Kildare needed any reminder of the hazards of a lacklustre Division Two league campaign, a meeting with the 2023 Tailteann Cup winners should put their current plight in very stark focus.

ARMAGH: Blaine Hughes; Greg McCabe, Aaron McKay, Paddy Burns; Peter McGrane, Aidan Forker, Connaire Mackin (0-1); Ciarán Mackin, Stefan Campbell (0-3); Rory Grugan (1-1, one free), Oisín Conaty (0-4), Joe McElroy (0-1); Cian McConville, Conor Turbitt (1-5, three frees, one mark), Andrew Murnin. Subs: Tiernan Kelly for Grugan (ht); Jarly Óg Burns (0-1) for McConville (49 mins); Barry McCambridge for Burns (54 mins); Jason Duffy for Conaty (63 mins); Aidan Nugent for Turbitt (63 mins)

KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Shea Ryan, Mick O’Grady, Eoin Doyle; Paddy McDermott, Kevin Flynn (0-1), Jack Sargent; Aaron Masterson, Kevin O’Callaghan; Alex Beirne (0-1), Darragh Kirwan (0-1), Ben McCormack; Paddy Woodgate, Kevin Feely (0-4, three frees), Barry Kelly. Subs: Ryan Burke for Ryan (26 mins); Daniel Flynn for Woodgate (ht); Luke Killian for Masterson (ht); Niall Kelly (0-1) for McCormack (46 mins); Shane Farrell for Beirne (53 mins)

REFEREE: David Coldrick (Meath)

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Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times