Armagh’s quest for redemption following their ignominious exit from the Ulster Championship at the hands of Cavan took all of five minutes at the Athletic Grounds yesterday.
When Jamie Clarke tucked away a second-minute penalty awarded for a tug on his own jersey and then flicked in a second goal two minutes later following a calamitous Wicklow defensive mix-up, he ended the game as a contest.
But manager Paul Grimley is much too worldly wise to bask in any euphoria gleaned from a one-sided affair.
“We needed this performance to signify progress, anything less would have been catastrophic,” he said.
If Clarke's opportunism, the creativity of Kevin Dyas, the leadership of skipper Ciarán McKeever and the sublime accuracy of Tony Kernan and Eugene McVerry underpinned this runaway Armagh success, then the renewed team spirit fostered by Grimley proved a major factor in his team's renaissance. By half-time Armagh had assembled a 2-14 to 0-2 lead, Clarke having already confirmed his man of the match status and every player in the attack had scored.
Wicklow, devoid of possession in the middle third of the park, simply had no answer and it was not until the 26th minute that they landed their first score through Joey Kelly.
Their second came from corner-back Alan Byrne a few minutes later but by then Armagh had already raced away.
Kernan, Clarke and McVerry heaped more ignominy on Wicklow after the break leaving visiting manager Harry Murphy clearly shell-shocked.
“I didn’t see this coming to be honest,” he admitted. “We knew Armagh would come at us strongly but after we conceded those couple of early goals the game was over.”
ARMAGH: P McEvoy; P McKeown, B Donaghy (0-1), J Morgan; A Kernan; C McKeever, M Shields (0-2); J Lavery, S Harold (0-1); C Rafferty (0-2), K Dyas (0-1), E Rafferty (0-1); J Clarke (2-3), T Kernan (0-5, two frees), E McVerry (0-4). Subs: F Moriarty for Donaghy (42 mins), S Campbell (0-1) for Dyas (49 mins), B Mallon for T Kernan (53 mins), J Hanratty for Harold (56 mins), R Grugan for Clarke (60 mins).
WICKLOW: J Flynn; C Hyland, D Power, A Byrne (0-1); D Hayden, P McWalter, D Healy; A McLoughlin, R Finn; D O'Sullivan, J Stafford, J Kelly (0-1); J McGrath, S Furlong, P Earls. Subs: N Mernagh for Kelly (26 mins), J Sheerin for Finn , L Benson for Hayden , B Coden for McLoughlin ( all half-time), A O'Malley for Earls (57 mins).
Referee: Derek Fahy (Longford).